EFC welterweight contender Conrad Seabi says it’s tough for someone from the location to rise to the top in South African mixed martial arts, and gives credit to Nkazimulo Zulu and Luthando Biko for their exploits.
Mamelodi-born Seabi is close to a title shot in Africa’s premier MMA promotion, as he currently prepares for a fight with Brazilian Jose da Rocha on the main card of EFC 76 at Time Square in Pretoria on December 8.
The 39-year-old was a late starter in MMA, but boasts extensive combat sports experience dating back to his teens.
Speaking to Alastair Bishop on the BigAl MMA Podcast, Seabi said he has around 200 combined fights in various disciplines, including karate, kickboxing and Muay Thai.
Seabi, though, struggled with the ground game when he transitioned to MMA, losing three of his first four outings in the cage.
However, he has since won five out of six, with the sole loss coming by decision against interim welterweight champion Gunther Kalunda (5-0) a year ago.
At an age when most athletes have called time, Seabi is fueled by something greater than a desire for competition.
“It is the kids that are coming behind me,” Seabi told Bishop.
“It is being a good role model for the kids, especially from where I come from, from Mamelodi. I can say I’m the first guy from Mamelodi to be on the EFC, so it’s a big thing you know. People never, as I said before, never thought … This is another sport it is not easy for a location boy to be on top. It’s not easy. It’s not because of racism, no, it’s tough. That’s not how we grew up doing wrestling and grappling. So to be able to manage to go there, it’s a big thing. So what motivates me is the support that I get, especially from young kids. I’m an inspiration for lots of kids.”
Seabi went on to salute Zulu, who hails from Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal, and Kwazakhele’s Biko for their inspirational achievements in the sport.
Zulu – the first and only South African to compete in the UFC’s Ultimate Fighter Series in 2016 – reasserted his pedigree by defending his EFC flyweight crown for the third time at Gary Joshua’s expense in Cape Town on November 3.
On the same card, Biko won the interim bantamweight belt with a dominant display against Englishman Callum Ellenor. ‘Shorty’ received a hero’s welcome on his return to Port Elizabeth International Airport in the Eastern Cape.
“The first thing that I’m targeting is to show even small boys that are doing crime, that are doing things that are not supposed to be done, you can do whatever you want, especially with your mind, with focus, and staying positive,” Seabi said.
“Luthando Biko and also Zulu, what they did, both of them, after winning the titles and going to the location. You know it’s a big thing, it’s a big achievement. Honestly speaking, it’s very rare to get someone doing that in the location. So it motivates me a lot, especially fighting someone from Brazil, that’s giving me motivation.”