CAPE TOWN – Igeu Kabesa vs Boyd Allen.
For the last two months, that was one of the most talked about events in the build up to Extreme Fighting Championship’s 2018 debut.
The former FFM teammates were set to headline EFC67 at Carnival City to confirm who the king of the featherweight division is with Kabesa being the incumbent.
Fast forward to ‘Fight Night’ and the main card headliner now reads Eliasov vs Penco, bright lights and all.
And what a fitting change, just two days after the world celebrated International Women’s Day (March 8th).
It’s also a momentous occasion not only because we get to celebrate the strong, beautiful specimen that is a female, but also because tonight we will see two ladies battle it out in the inaugural EFC women’s strawweight title fight.
South Africa’s Danella Eliasov, the first Mzansi homegrown to be signed to the EFC, takes on Italy’s undefeated Chiara Penco.
“It’s been a long journey,” says Eliasov, a doctor who fights out of Hatfield, Pretoria.
“From begging EFC for a fight and now we are headlining. It is a dream come true. Now to put on a show!”
‘Eliasov vs Penco’ is only the second women’s title fight in history to headline an EFC event, after Amanda Lino defeated Jacqualine Trosee at EFC60 for the flyweight championship … and who can forget that exchange of skill and power.
Like the Hawkey family, Eliasov is something of a pioneer in women’s Mixed Martial Arts this side of the equator. Her backpack is filled with weapons which include some fine Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Boxing artillery.
At the age of 34, she will be on the opposite side of the Hexagon facing the new kid on the block in 22-year-old Penco.
Eliasov, who currently stands on two wins and 1 loss (via decision) will need her BJJ when she takes on an Italian who enjoys the ground game.
“I have been training and waiting for this opportunity my whole life,” says Penco.
“It is a chance to show what I am worth, in one of the most important organisations in the world.
“MMA fans around the world can expect to see a transformation from a normal Italian girl, outside the hexagon, into a beast once I enter it.”
When not fighting, Penco spends her time modelling.
And isn’t it fitting, how, in the month of celebrating our women, we can appreciate the vastness and pedigree between these two females in terms of occupation, character and ability.
It makes perfect sense why featherweight champion Kabesa has no problem giving the last cheers and applause to his female colleagues tonight.
“I am not disappointed at all that I’m not fighting the main fight any longer. The ladies deserve to be up there,” says Kabesa, emphasising how far females have come in the sport and how deserving they are of recognition.
“The bottom line is I’m fighting. In fact, I would have loved to be the first fight then I’m done,” he said, much to my amusement.
Kabesa now finds himself taking on Brazil’s Paul ‘Bananada’ Silva after Allen had notified the EFC of an ongoing illness that he could not shake off in time for the championship fight.
Silva, originally from Rio de Janeiro, is an elite and dangerous athlete.
With a record of 22-12, he is a master of BJJ and has multiple MMA championships to prove it.
He recently moved to South Africa to take on a coaching and athletic position with one Brendon Katz where he was first approached as a potential replacement for Allen.
Silva agreed without hesitation.
“It will take heart, guts and skill to win this fight. I have all of these, so I have no problem stepping up at short notice. This is just the entry into EFC that I was hoping for,” he said.
In most cases, a sudden change in opponent can disrupt or frustrate fighters, not in Kabesa’s case though.
“I’m not really bothered about the change, I don’t have to cut anymore and nothing has changed,” says Kabesa with reference to the fight now taking place in the heavier lightweight division without any title contention.
“Silva is old and has yet to understand young blood sprint. I am going to outclasss him.”
So, what an opening to EFC 2018 it is. We have two females making history. We have young fighters vs old fighters, we have doctors vs models, pace vs wisdom … the list goes on.
Regardless of what happens, let’s celebrate how far females have come on the sports front and let’s salute them for their efforts and struggles .
Cue the music…
Kena v Kasanda (lightweight); Cronje v Kabeya (featherweight); K Hlongwa v Roussow (light heavyweight); Khusu v de Beer (catchweight); Coxen v Kalunda (welterweight); Goncalves v Kanyinda (featherweight); Harle v Djikasa (heavyweight)
MAIN CARD: Masunyane v Hugnett (flyweight); Roodman v Hlongwa (middleweight); Kabesa v Silva (lightweight); De Ridder v Allison (middleweight); Elisasov v Penco (women’s strawweight championship)
* Main card live on SABC 3 tonight starting at 9.30pm
* Live-tweeting: @juliankiewietz