The pair will square-off at the 22nd edition of the Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event at Carnival City in Brakpan on Thursday evening, but fans should not expect a long fight, Kruger warned. “I’m coming out and I’m expecting Tumelo to bring one hell of a war,” Kruger said ahead of the fight.
“I don’t think this fight is going to go the rounds. I think one of us is going to knock the other out. If it went five rounds that would suck, right? So let’s do it. I’ll leave what that means in terms of my game plan to the crowd’s imagination.”
Kruger, who holds a professional MMA record of four wins and no losses, sent out a clear message regarding his title credentials following his last fight at EFC 18, where he defeated Donavin Hawkey.
The 26-year-old fighter was dominant against Hawkey and has patiently waited for an opportunity for a shot at the title, but must get past Maphutha to do so. “I don’t trash talk,” Kruger explained.
“Before the fight, I’m a nice guy, [but] when I get in there, I’ll become an animal. Everybody’s talking about Tumelo coming out to punch my head off. “What do they think I’m going to do, come out and bake cookies?”
Maphutha, meanwhile, reiterated Kruger’s view on the fight, adding that he expected a massive reaction from the crowd, who want to see a thrilling battle between two of the best MMA fighters on the continent.
“I’m expecting him to stand with me, so that we can show just how good on the feet we are,” Maphutha said. “I’m a fighter, I’m ready for five rounds, but it doesn’t matter how far it goes. I’m ready for anything. He shouldn’t expect much because the fight is not going to last long. I think in the first round he’s going to be finished.”
Although not a title fight, the winner of the contest will be the number one contender to challenge current middleweight champion Jeremy Smith for the belt, making Thursday’s meeting a must-win for both.
Kruger, however, said he was focused on the fight but still managed to heap praise on his opponent, who he believed would be a massive threat once the fight got underway. “He’s a big strong guy,” Kruger said of Maphutha.
“He’s a very good, strong powerhouse. He’s definitely a force to be reckoned with.He can expect war. He’s going to bring me war and he’s going to come to hit my head off. I’m going to try to make him miss and I’ll box back.”
In the night’s other main-card bouts, Donnovan Wilken squares-off against Matthew Buirski in the bantamweight division, before Frederich Naumann takes on Dallas Jakobi in a lightweight fight.
Also on the main card, Fraser Opie makes his African debut, taking on Mohamed Ali in the light heavyweight division, while Barend Nienaber and Amos Hlatshwayo compete in a featherweight bout.
EFC Africa 22 fight card: JP Kruger v Tumelo Maphutha (middleweight), Frederich Naumann v Dallas Jakob (lightweight), Matthew Buirski v Donnovan Wilken (bantamweight), Amos Hlatshwayo v Barend Nienaber (featherweight), Fraser Opie v Mohamed Ali (light heavyweight), Ian Visser v Christophe Walravens (heavyweight), Juan Lubbe v Themba Gorimbo (welterweight), Nkazimulo Zulu v Cedric Doyle (bantamweight), Josh Muller v James Saks (welterweight), Donald Nzirawa v David van Schalkwyk (lightweight), Roelof Scheepers v Koko Hammer (heavyweight), Chimmy van Winkel v Morne Prinsloo (welterweight).