Amanda Lino is one of those champions who just have the recipe for success. Both as a human, and as an athlete.
I’ve seen some Mixed Martial Artists come across overbearingly brash, aggressive and just plain mean... to bring a point across.
Yes, I do understand the assertive and “never back down” factors that come with competitive and especially contact sports.
But some athletes just have the right mix, which includes humility, respect and overall just being “cool and chilled” beings.
They know they are “bad ass” in the hexagon/octagon, and so they don’t need to overcompensate by being unnecessarily bad ass in public.
And it’s clear why so many fans are happy that Amanda Lino is getting the chance to sport two title belts tonight.
She possesses so much “champion” inside of her and to me, it emanates from the personality, to the way she carries herself in interviews, right down to the way she gets the W (win).
I’ve even heard how young ladies all the way down here in Cape Town talk about how “cool” and “funky” her hair looks.
Big-ups to Sweeny Barber and Lazlo.
It’s clear that she holds a special place in the hearts of some of her fans.
And so, tonight at EFC70, there will be no doubt about whose name you will hear the most when the flyweight champion challenges Rizlen Zouak for the inaugural bantamweight championship at the Sibaya Casino in Durban.
Amanda was called out by a title-hungry judo specialist to step out of her comfort zone of a lighter division.
Commendably, Amanda, being true to her “never-back-down” spirit, gladly accepted despite sitting already comfortable with a piece of gold around her waist.
“This fight was about accepting a challenge. I really enjoy a challenge and won’t back down from a fight,” said the rock-star athlete from Durban.
“It’s a huge honour, however, fighting for another title.
“To have the opportunity to achieve double-champion status like Dricus (du Plessis) is something I am really grateful for. He is an amazing athlete who works very hard and is extremely determined.
“I believe my team and I have worked hard to get where we are and come tonight it will all pay off. It will be great to be alongside Dricus’ champion status.”
Du Plessis has been a revelation for the Extreme Fighting Championship for a while now, sporting two belts (middleweight and welterweight).
He recently also stamped his name on the Polish MMA promotion KSW welterweight belt after beating Roberto Soldic via a TKO in the second round.
He has been a marketable brand for the EFC and African MMA globally. And so, Amanda could begin her path to even greater heights, like Dricus.
Of course, the glory, like all greatness, comes with smart work, guts and heart.
And there will be no shortage of doubt that Amanda deserves the title should she win tonight as she would’ve have overcome a worthy opponent in the form of Rizlen, a 2012/2016 Judo Olympian with impeccable timing and calculation.
She has been on a two-fight winning streak in the South African promotion and has earned so much respect. And deservedly so.
On weight alone, she will have the upper hand being more or less “naturally” prepared for the division she will be throwing down in tonight in comparison to the EFC flyweight champion.
Fighting out of the renowned MMA factory that is home to proper global fighters, including Francis Ngannou and Alan Baudot, Rizlen is incredibly tactful, calculating and patient, backed up by a physique that complements her Judo.
But Amanda believes that she has put in the hard yards and is well prepared for the dangerous Judo artist from France.
“My coach Rodney van der Vlugt comes from a long line of judo. I also have a few guys in my gym with a Judo background. So, that is not something new to me.
“We have focused slightly more on the judo throws, but we are more than ready for anything,” says Amanda.
The throws have been an effective tool in Rizlen’s arsenal, it would trigger the start of a victory in most cases for her, the same way it used to help Ronda Rousey rise to fame in the UFC... which was followed by the big fall, of course.
When speaking about Rizlen being more attuned to bantamwieght than Amanda, the Mzansi MMA star subdued any concerns quickly.
“Guys in my gym are up to 115 kilograms, so I have trained with heavier opponents.”
Of course, should Amanda get her game going, it could be a total different story. She loves a good scrap and enjoys the positive fighting form that is front-foot stand-up – a dogged fighter who shows up with her fists and puts down with her fists.
This could put Rizlen in a very uncomfortable position as Amanda is naturally the stronger stand-up artist.
With fans across the board being mostly stand-up enthusiasts, it could explain partially why Amanda receives so much love.
Lino, who made history by becoming the first EFC champion, though, has a supreme all-ground game with an ever-growing ground game.
She got her first chance to display her mat work in her fight with Jacqualine Trosee.
“I was very happy to win that fight especially via submission. It was the first opportunity for me to display my ground game so that was very exciting.”
Will Amanda get to showcase some more of her ground-work, or get the crowd on their feet with her stand-up? Or will Rizlen break a few Durban hearts tonight?
Prelim Card (live-streamed from 5.30pm on Facebook)
Madlopha vs Dwama (flyweight)
Ngema vs R de Beer (bantamweight)
M Hlongwa vs Swanepoel (middleweight)
Singh vs Kasanda (lightweight)
Mnikathi vs Ngcobo (lightweight)
M de Beer vs Hassan (flyweight)
Main Card (To be aired live on SABC3 at 9.30pm)
K Hlongwa vs Openshaw (middleweight)
Mndebela vs Strydom (heavyweight)
Moodley vs Octavio (flyweight)
Ojewole vs Trosee (bantamweight)
Lino vs Zouak (championship bantamweight)