South African mixed martial arts legend Andrew van Zyl has explained his decision to retire from fighting at the age of 36.
Van Zyl, who defended the EFC heavyweight belt thrice across two reigns, hung up his gloves with a record of 19-5 after suffering his only knockout loss to Englishman Stuart Austin at Time Square in Pretoria on Saturday.
A teacher by profession at his alma mater Parktown Boys’ High School in Johannesburg, Van Zyl decided to bow out of the sport a while back.
“It has been really tough the last year, just putting everything together, putting the amount of time in that is necessary to be successful at this level,” said Van Zyl at the post-EFC 76 press conference.
“But I had decided whether I had won or loss, I would call it a day, so …”
An emotional Van Zyl received a standing ovation from fighters and media as he composed himself and expressed gratitude for a 17-year career, which saw him share the cage with ex-UFC fighters such as Cyril Asker (9-4) and Ruan Potts (11-7) as a true trailblazer of local MMA.
“Thank you very much everybody. Particularly for the EFC putting a vast amount of faith in me over the last couple of years. This support and everything wouldn’t have happened without you guys, and I’m just very thankful for everything you have done for me.”
‘One Gear’ added: “Again, thanks for everything, particularly the fans and the EFC. But I have got a massive amount of training partners and sponsorship that has made this easier for me. And you know, they have been there for me in extremely sort of tough times, they’ve stuck with me. I know we are not here to label sponsors and those types of things, but the guys at BJ MMA, Apex, those guys that put in the time with me, thank you very much.”