By Caoilte de Barra
With Senegalese fighters on the rise, meet the organisation which has been building national legitimacy for MMA since 2012. Based in Dakar, MMA Senegal are currently in the advanced stages of IMMAF recognition with membership expected to be confirmed at the upcoming IMMAF board meeting.
MMA Senegal is recognised by the country’s Ministry of Interior, and is connected to clubs across the capital, Dakar, amongst other regions. The non-profit was founded in 2012 to promote and engage people in combat sports, MMA in particular.
President – Pape Demba Kane – is a former MMA fighter and has over 10 years of experience working in the finance industry. Committed to developing MMA in the country, Kane aims to aid members and fighters to explore their capabilities and find the right discipline in Senegal.
He has established a trained workforce including volunteers and a board of trustees that brings together diverse experience from industries including martial arts, coaching and club management, journalism and media as well as the financial sector.
There are plans in place for a supportive collaboration with the national wrestling scene, which is hugely popular, to establish thousands of MMA licenses. Meaning MMA Senegal is ready to join IMMAF and an international community that will enable greater development at home with the added opportunity for local MMA pathways.
MMA Senegal joining IMMAF comes as no surprise with the rise of Senegalese MMA as of late. On the 14th December 2019, Dakar played host to ARES FC 1, the debut show of the first Afro-European MMA League.
ARES FC promoted a show filled with high-level talent from around the globe. The show attracted worldwide media attention and was aired live on UFC Fight Pass. The focal point for many was the emergence of Oumar Kane a.k.a Reug Reug, who took to the cage for the first time at ARES FC 1.
‘Reug Reug’ is also an undefeated Senegalese Wrestling Champion, a wrestling style not often seen in MMA but whose stars are national heroes in Senegal. Now fighting under the ONE Championship Banner, he has become a star ever since his successful debut against Sofiane Boukichou and is continuing to rise in the sport.
Other promotions have also begun to sign talent with such background. KSW recently signed two-time ‘King of the Arena’ Senegalese Wrestling Champion, Serigne Ousmane ‘Bombardier’ Dia. ‘Bombardier’ holds a 2-0 record in MMA and faces former World’s Strongest Man, Mariusz Pudzianowski (13-7) in his promotional debut.
The rise of these fighters has put the folk style wrestling on the map internationally. Senegalese Wrestling events attract sell-out crowds that fill out arenas including football stadiums in Senegal. Competitors like ‘Bombardier’ and ‘Reug Reug’ are often seen as celebrities.
The sport is not solely grappling based as it allows blows fighters compete to knock each other onto the ground or out of the ring. Fights can last anywhere between 30 seconds to 30 minutes. (Source: A Fighting Chance: Wrestling Out of Poverty in Senegal | Time)
The rise in Senegalese Wrestlers transitioning to MMA is refreshing and with the help of MMA Senegal it may not be long before we all come to enjoy this style of combat in IMMAF competitions.
Image Credit: ARES Fighting Championship