The Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) scene has slowly but steadily gained traction in Zambia over the last few years despite being such a niche sport in the country. This is largely thanks to Mixed Martial Arts Zambia (MMAZ) the organising body responsible for everything around the sport in the country.

MMAZ recently hosted Zambia’s first-ever MMA symposium at Arcades Shopping Mall. The four-day event ran from 25 to 28November 2021, garnering a favorable audience comprised of professional Zambian MMA fighters like Rob Simbowe, a pioneer of the sport in the country, as well as young up and coming fighters looking to go professional.

Mixed martial artist Cris Cyborg, considered one of the greatest fighters of all time, was among the special guests at Zambia’s inaugural MMA symposium.

The symposium was not only entertaining, but incredibly educational, with workshops and seminars held on different days around how to gain sponsorship, contract law in combat sports, career progression, addressing bullying, refereeing and judging, self-defense for women and a vulnerable kids programme. The event was free and inclusive of all interested denizens.

I fight for my supporters. I fight for my family. I fight for anyone out there that can’t fight for themselves.

Cris Cyborg

While the seminars and the workshops proved to be incredibly fun and valuable, one of the highlights of the entire event had to be the in-person appearance of Brazilian-American mixed martial artist, Christiane Justino Venâncio, professionally known as Cris Cyborg, lauded as the only MMA fighter, male or female, to attain Grand Slam Championstatus. She holds world championships across four major mixed martial arts promotions and is regarded as one of the greatest athletes of all-time in combat sports. Cris is currently the Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion, having held the title since 2020. She has also previously held the Featherweight Championships in UFC, Invicta FC, and Strikeforce.

The mood at the event was nothing short of electric. The crowd roared and cheered jubilantly as a bashful Cris Cyborg made her way to her seat on the stage where she was joined by fellow special guest and former MMA athlete, Ray Elbe. Ray moderated a talk between the two, which opened with Cris sharing anecdotes from her career from when she had her first fight at 19, which she lost. She also discussed her move to the USA where she would sign a deal with Strikeforce, a mixed martial arts organisation. Cris gained greater recognition after winning the Strikeforce title in 2009, by defeating her opponent, Gina Carano via a first round technical knockout.

Cris may be fierce in the ring but outside of it she’s the polar opposite. She’s a reserved woman whose passions lie in humanitarian projects and simple pleasures like spending quality time with family.  Another thing about Cyborg that easily becomes apparent within a short time of meeting her or listening to her speak is how fervently she holds dear to her faith, attributing a lot of her success to God and citing prayer as one of her healthiest disciplines alongside running.

When Nkwazi asked Cris why she fights, she had this to share, “I fight for my supporters. I fight for my family. I fight for anyone out there that can’t fight for themselves. The reason I do this is that I want to leave the world a little bit better than I found it. Fighting has given me the opportunity to create a better life for myself and the people around me.”

Over the course of her career, Cris Cyborg has had two losses. Her most defining loss was her loss to fellow Brazilian MMA fighter, Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes, in 2018. In spite of her loss to Nunes, Cris is still regarded as arguably the greatest female MMA fighter of all time. And she has nothing but the utmost respect for the fact that the sport is a win-or-lose game. “It’s all part of the process, sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. I’ve had an amazing career that has allowed me to get in the ring with the best of the best, making me one of the bests”.

Towards the end of the talk, Roy left the stage, allowing room for MMAZ Communication Officer Andrew Sowden, to share a few words. Andrew used the opportunity to thank everyone present for their participation, from the sponsors of the event to the general public. He also acknowledged the role played by his cohorts such as MMAZ President Benjamin Bush, Vice President Rodney Katongo and General Secretary Kabuba Yalenga Bush. Andrew acknowledged their tireless work to further MMA in Zambia and use it as a driving tool for positive change in our communities by empowering women and the youth with the necessary skills to forge their own path and most importantly, to remain disciplined members of society.

With the symposium being a complete success, one thing is for sure. MMA in Zambia will see exponential growth in the next few years as MMAZ will continue to invest in the future of the sport and seek to make the country a dominant force on the global MMA stage.

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