CAPE TOWN – Willem Smith is something close to a gentle giant.
The light-heavyweight fighter is a shining example of how a gentleman should carry himself.
When you meet him, in fact, he will make sure he comes to meet you.
And at the age of 38, the wisdom and life skills that he carries, adds to the backing you naturally want to give a guy like that when he steps into the hexagon.
After making his debut in the Extreme Fighting Championship at a late age at EFC72 last year, it was tough for Willem (2 losses and no wins) and he had to adapt quickly in order to continue his dream of fighting on the big stage.
After two first-round losses to Matunga Djikasa (heavyweight) and Khulekani Hlongwa, Smith is keen on getting his first win at EFC78 this weekend at Grand West Casino.
Smith will take on Zaakir Badat in a light-heavyweight bout at the Grand Arena, and you can hear in the gentle giant’s voice the drive and hunger for that first win.
“Those losses were a very bitter pill to swallow,” says Smith.
“I was rushed in my first fight against Matunga, and all the excitement of being on the main card in my first fight played a big role. The second fight, I was outmatched by a very good striker (Hlongwa). That is how it goes, you make a mistake and you pay the price.
“But I am not looking back, both those fights were learning curves. The camp for this fight has truly been a tough camp for me, I have been focusing on my strong points a lot which includes my boxing and my angles and putting combinations together.
“I want this win bad,” he says.
His opponent, Badat, is a bit of an unknown entity. However, he enjoys the ground game, opposed to Smith’s standup, and Smith says this is a factor he will take into consideration.
“I have studied him and I noticed a few holes in his game. He is a ground specialist and I worked a lot on my ground as well. He doesn’t like striking and he throws wild shots here and there, there’s absolutely no combinations that has been put together so we take it that he worked on those gaps and he must bring out the best that he has.
“I can honestly tell you that if he does not keep his hands up, he will be knocked out,” warns Smith.
Smith, who fights out of REPS MMA in Bellville, took a different approach to this fight, changing his routine and prep work.
“I had a different camp, I had my strength cardio and conditioning at REPS, but I went to Tricore (in Brackenfell) and trained with Sensei Ruhan Louw, and he honestly brought the best out of me. We made a couple of tweaks.
“We looked at my fights and he assisted me not only with the physical, but also the mental aspect of the game.
“I am grateful and honoured to be working with Sensei Ruhan,” added Smith.
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