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By Clinton Jones

Sports Editor


Themba Gorimbo: The ‘mamba’ working man who became an EFC champ

Zimbabwe's first MMA champion tread a hard path towards emulating his hero, the late Kobe Bryant. He's well on his way.


When Themba Gorimbo left the rural surroundings of Zimbabwe to seek greener pastures in South Africa not many people would have predicted what the future would bring. Except the man himself. Born in Masvingo in south-eastern Zimbabwe, Gorimbo moved to Cape Town when he was 17-years-old. [caption id="attachment_2257799" align="aligncenter" width="749"] EFC fighter Themba Gorimbo speaks to The Citizen during an interview, 17 March 2020, at his gym in Kyalami, Midrand. Picture: Michel Bega[/caption] It was not an easy life as he tried to juggle work with training in the hopes of one day scaling the heights in the tough world…

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When Themba Gorimbo left the rural surroundings of Zimbabwe to seek greener pastures in South Africa not many people would have predicted what the future would bring.

Except the man himself.

Born in Masvingo in south-eastern Zimbabwe, Gorimbo moved to Cape Town when he was 17-years-old.

EFC fighter Themba Gorimbo speaks to The Citizen during an interview, 17 March 2020, at his gym in Kyalami, Midrand. Picture: Michel Bega

It was not an easy life as he tried to juggle work with training in the hopes of one day scaling the heights in the tough world of professional mixed martial arts (MMA).

“I worked a normal job from 8pm to 4pm. Then after work I took part in classes from 5pm to 9pm. After that I would go to the gym and train until it closed, making sure I am the last one to leave, then I would jog 30 minutes home.

“The next morning I make sure I am the first one at the gym. If I am not, then I am very upset.”

Never one to rest to rest on his laurels, Gorimbo took a massive risk and moved to Johannesburg where he opened a gym with training partner, friend and former MMA fighter Demarte Pena.

It was a risk that paid off as he worked his way up the ranks in the welterweight division of the Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) where he would himself in line for a shot at the title.

At EFC 82 he faced Luke Michael after months of trash talking between the two who clearly had a dislike for each other.

Gorimbo dominated the contest and stopped Michael in the second round to become the first Zimbabwean champion in the organisation.

All these months later, Gorimbo still has some animosity towards him.

EFC fighter Themba Gorimbo for a photograph after an interview with The Citizen, 17 March 2020, at his gym in Kyalami, Midrand. Picture: Michel Bega

“I don’t like Luke Michael. He is fake kid. I tried to reach out to him after the fight where he said something stupid again. If I see him now I will slap him,” Gorimbo said said at his gym in Kyalami earlier this week.

But capturing the EFC title was just a stepping stone on the path of a man who will not rest until he has reached greatness.

He successfully defended his title last weekend and immediately set his sights on the next challenge.

Being in the MMA world that is filled with many abrasive characters, Gorimbo’s confidence can very easily be mistaken for arrogance.

“I don’t have to pretend to be somebody else. With me it’s what you see is what you get. I am either cool with you or I am not,” said the man who stated that he never wants to be the victim and has never expected anything from anyone.

A contract at the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is a dream for every MMA fighter and Gorimbo believes this will happen for him in the very near future.

“I see myself as someone that is going to be a UFC champion by the end of 2021,” the confident Zimbawean predicted.

The UFC currently has two African-born champions – middleweight king Israel Adesanya and welterweight champ Kumaru Usman – both born in Nigeria.

Being in the same weight division, Gorimbo is closely following the career of Usman, who he hopes will still be the champion for some time.

“I hope he keeps winning, I want to take the belt from him.”

“I want that title fight to take place in the Mother City,” said Gorimbo, referring to Cape Town, and possibly Cape Town Stadium for the African super fight.

That’s how I see things going. I see myself getting a title shot shot by my sixth fight in the UFC.”

Gorimbo is man who firmly believes in “mamba” mentality, a phrase coined by the late basketball star Kobe Bryant.

Unfortunately he will never get to meet his hero.

“I was hoping that when I get to the UFC I will get to meet him, but unfortunately these things happen.

I can literally recite every word of every interview done with Kobe Bryant, because I have watched them so many times,” he added.

“I have two heroes in my life – my father and Kobe Bryant. Their mindset and the way they think is something that inspires me.”

Gorimbo may be far from the world where he grew, but he has never forgotten his roots.

“I auctioned my shorts from my last fight and raised R22 000 and that will pay for the school fees of two girls for the next two years. I am not entitled to do this, I do this out of my heart,” he said.

Whatever the future may bring for him, it seems Gorimbo’s mentality will allow him to thrive in whatever life throws at him.

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