Mixed martial arts Africa Champs kick off in Namibia

Umar Edwards (left) will look to make a big statement at this year's IMMAF Africa Champs. | IMMAF

Umar Edwards (left) will look to make a big statement at this year's IMMAF Africa Champs. | IMMAF

Published May 27, 2024


Julian Kiewietz

Several members of Team South Africa touched down in Windhoek, Namibia, this morning, hoping to fly Mzansi’s flag high at this year’s International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) Africa Champs.

Fourteen youth and eighteen adult athletes were selected to compete at the competition this year, which will be the first time that Namibia host the continental showpiece as MMA continues to be one of the fastest-growing sports in the world.

While funding remains a problem for the sport as it continues its quest for Olympic recognition and government backing, not all athletes could fly to the second Africa champs held outside South Africa.

A handful of stars took the "long road" with their families and coaches in pursuit of their dreams. Just yesterday, the highly-talented youth stars, the Edwards twins (Yasin and Umar) hit the road with their father Zahir Edwards and coach Lyndall Sandenbergh.

Fellow youth stars Arno Carstens and Cihan Geyer travelled with their parents, driving from Heidelberg and Pretoria respectively.

The Edwards twins and Geyer are no strangers to the IMMAF competitions, having competed at Nationals and Youth World Championships in recent years.

Aside from financial woes, these are exciting times for African MMA. With big names such as Dricus du Plessis, Dalcha Lungiambula, Don Madge, Francis Ngannou, Israel Adesanya, Kamaru Usman, Eliezer Kubanza, Nkosi Ndebele, Demarte Pena and many more shining in major promotions worldwide, the growth of the sport at grassroots/amateur and youth level in South Africa is rapid. This latest event will also be the first time a youth division has been added to the Africa Championships – speaking volumes for the interest in the sport.

The South Africa team consists of several notable mentions, including Genevieve Tuson (IMMAF Worlds 2023 medallist), as well as JJ Karagiannidis, Andrew Retief, Sipho Mlaba, Liam Schulze, Tyrone Platt, Dylan Behrens – all IMMAF world attendees.

“We initially had 27 youth athletes registered but had to withdraw 13 due to no other athletes being in their brackets. We understand this is the first time the Africa Champs open up the youth division, so we expect to see these divisions grow going forward, just like every other division has over the years,” says head coach William Oberholzer.

“Our initial senior team had 28 athletes, but ten could not make it due to various factors such as injury, work and university exams, while some are saving their funds for the World Championships.”

Registration for the championships was open to all African federations wishing to compete at the ultimate proving ground for amateur mixed martial artists under the umbrella of the only WADA-signatory governing body for MMA.

Last year, Namibia announced itself as a major player in the amateur world, with Damian Muller winning gold in the Flyweight division of the 2023 African Championships, and Veja Hinda and Geraldo Bok earning silver and bronze, respectively, at Featherweight.

In 2022, Hinda made a big statement in becoming the 135-pound champion in his debut tournament.

Other nations that have continued to evolve under the umbrella of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation include DR Congo, Mauritius, and Angola.

IMMAF president Kerrith Brown has spoken about the commitment of the organisation jn fostering an all-around and complete ecosystem for mixed martial arts in Africa over the past seven years, and is confident the evolution of the sport on the continent will take another big step at this year’s edition of the Africa Championships.

“We are proud to be bringing another IMMAF Championships to Africa. This is a seven-year-long commitment to the development of mixed martial arts across all sectors within the continent. Alongside bringing the biggest proving ground for amateur fighters to Africa, we will continue to empower referees, coaches and fighters, the pillars that are vital for the constant development of an ecosystem for MMA in Africa.”

Under the hosting of MMA Namibia, the 2024 African Championships will be supported by the African MMA Confederation (AMMAC), as well as partners RDX, UFC and BRAVE Combat Federation.

The IMMAF Africa Champs starts today and end on June 1.

YOUTH A (16-17): Umar Edwards (61kg); Joshua de Beer (61kg); Joshua Allison (65kg); Johnny Esterhuizen (65kg); Asange Belu (83kg); Reynard Venter (83kg);

YOUTH B (14-15): Arno Carstens (48kg); Ethan Richards (48kg); Yasin Edwards (57kg); Cihan Geyer (57kg); Jovan Theart (67kg); Caleb Swart (67kg); LK Van Collier (77kg); Luke De Beer (77kg)


ATOM: Genevieve Tuson

FLY: Jade Grundlingh


FEATHER: Demi-Shaye Thomas


FLY: Mbuso Ngubane

BANTAM: Nqobizitha Msimango

FEATHER: JJ Karagiannidis


MIDDLE WEIGHT: Andrew Retief


STRAW: Philani Ngqoyiya

FLY: Obakeng Mahura; Daniel James

BANTAM: Sisi Jungula; Sipho Mlaba

FEATHER: Liam Schulze

LIGHTWEIGHT: Iviwe Mphathiswa


MIDDLE WEIGHT: Dylan Behrens


* Julian Kiewietz is at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) Africa Champs in partnership wicourtesy of Intergro.

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