MIXED Martial Arts (MMA) star Sylvester “Gladiator” Chipfumbu hopes to become the first Zimbabwean to fight in the highly-lucrative Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in the US after a storming start to his professional career in South Africa.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The 23-year-old Gweru-born former Zimbabwe national team karateka is currently riding a four-fight winning streak in the South Africa-based Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) since joining the professional ranks last year.
And last weekend the Cape Town-based cage fighter showed why many respected MMA pundits in South Africa are touting him as the next big thing in the UFC after knocking out Abdul “Hollywood” Hassan in their flyweight encounter at Grand West Grand Arena.
Chipfumbu proved his right to stand with the EFC legend by stifling Hassan’s takedown attempts with dangerous kicks from range, and then landing a pistol shot off a straight right that dropped Hassan to the canvas.
The Zimbabwean, who was showered with praises after the win which stretched his unbeaten run to four matches, immediately declared his intention to challenge for the EFC flyweight title currently held by South African star Nkazimulo “Zuluboy” Zulu.
“The win against Abdul Hassan to me was just another stepping stone towards realising my dream of winning the EFC flyweight title and making a move to the UFC [America], the biggest MMA organisation in the world,” Chipfumbu told Standardsport in an interview last week.
A product of the Mkoba Dojo in Gweru, Chipfumbu’s initial dream was to represent Zimbabwe at the bi-annual Karate World Championships which are the highest level of competition for karate organised by the World Karate Federation.
“I first got involved in karate in 2006 under Sensei Elton Marongere and the late Amos Chihlaba in Gweru before making the Midlands provincial team and later the national karate team,’ Chipfumbu recalls.
It would be the start of a successful career for the then Mkoba 3 High School student as he went on to scoop several local accolades while also representing Zimbabwe at the Zone VI (now Region V) Karate Championships.
“When I started training, it was like a hobby to get away from home and I never thought it would take me this far. I went on to win several awards as a competitor, including the provincial and national championship titles in my weight division,” he said.
“I also represented Zimbabwe at the Zone VI Games, where I won a bronze in my first year and then a gold medal the following year. My dream was to make it to the World Championships, but it was financially difficult.”
After completing his high school education, Chipfumbu moved to South Africa in a bid to continue his karate career, but ended up trying his luck in MMA more by chance than by design.
“I accidentally came across a MMA gym and just thought I should give it a try and I liked it. I started competing and became the Cape Fight League bantamweight champion and managed to successfully defend my title a couple of times before being promoted to the EFC,” he said.