The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
SOUTH AFRICA’S Dricus Du Plessis recently dethroned American Sean Strickland to become the middleweight champion at the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) 297 main event in Toronto, Canada.
The win saw Du Plessis join Kamaru Usman, Israel Adesanya and Francis Ngannou as the only African UFC champions.
It does, however, remain to be seen whether Du Plessis views them as Africans.
Adesanya was born in Nigeria but now fights, trains and represents New Zealand.
His claim to be African, therefore, appears to be a bone of contention between the two fighters, and this makes their eventual much-hyped showdown all the more interesting.
The same can be said about Usman and Ngannou, who represent the United States and France, respectively.
But one fighter who, like Du Plessis, is based in Africa and has UFC aspirations is Zimbabwe’s Sylvester “The Gladiator” Chipfumbu.
The Extreme Fighting Championship Worldwide (EFCW) fighter was in Canada for the UFC 297 and kept a close eye on the Du Plessis and Strickland middleweight fight.
He was also among the thousands, if not millions, of Africans gushing with pride after the fight.
“Props to Dricus (Du Plessis), I was there for the whole fight and followed everything from the buildup to the actual fight,” said Chipfumbu.
“I cannot begin to express how delighted and happy I am for him, his team and Africa as a whole.
“He has been a great role model for a lot of African fighters, myself included, and his achievements just show what we are capable of as a continent.
“There has always been that stigma about us as some think that only those who train and fight in America or the West can rise to be champions.
“Dricus just proved the doubters wrong, and he has done well for himself and the continent as a whole.”
Born on October 21, 1991, Chipfumbu is a former Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) bantamweight champion, who now plies his trade with the Middle East-based EFCW.
His record stands at 10 professional wins, five losses and no draws.
He is currently ranked 25th out of 289 in the active Middle East Pro Bantamweights and third on the African continent.
However, the 32-year-old has bigger aspirations of following Du Plessis to the UFC.
“The plan, at the moment, is to win a couple more fights, gain as much experience as I can and then move up to the UFC.
“I feel like it’s (UFC dream) getting closer now and, while we don’t have an exact date, we have things in motion behind the scenes that are being geared towards that move.
“I cannot go into the specifics at the moment, but the move will hopefully be sooner rather than later,” he said.
In the meantime, Chipfumbu has no qualms getting his hands dirty and grinding it out in the EFC, EFCW or the Middle East Pro Championship.
To him, mixed martial arts (MMA) is a way of life and not just a hobby or job.
“I did not choose MMA, but MMA chose me.
“It is one of the best sports around as any person can take it up and it instils discipline in all its fighters,” he said.
He has already started doing his homework.
“While I don’t know him (Du Plessis) personally, I have met him a couple of times and we talked a bit.
“We have met at events and his gym, and I have had the opportunity to see how he trains.
“He is one of the most hardworking people, from what I have seen and heard from those around him.”
Hard work is not something Chipfumbu lacks as he spends most of his time in the gym and cage sparring.
Like Du Plessis, the Zimbabwean is not short on confidence as he views himself as one of the best, if not the best, fighter in his division.