By Jake Smith
Superior physical attributes and the love of competing; there are many reasons an athlete would decide to enter the world of mixed martial arts. For Mwelwa Nkhata (Pictured Left), the sport has not only helped him flourish as a person but has monumentally assisted with his mental health.
Ahead of his maiden IMMAF championship, at the 2022 Africa Championship, the Bantamweight has openly discussed the struggles he has faced & how the sport has been a constructive outlet for him.
Mixed martial arts has helped Nkhata develop his combat skillset and has been a way to deal with life challenges.
“I started competing last year when I had my first amateur bout. I compete in mixed martial arts because it gives me a purpose, a sense of focus and direction in my life. And it just helps me deal with things I might not have a healthy way of dealing with.”
“I was always the small kid. I was a bit awkward growing up. I had a few bullies. It was difficult, but I don’t resent it. I think it helped me become who I am, so in a way I am grateful.”
“I also had problems with my mental health for a long time. I had panic attacks but they were always infrequent enough that I just accepted them for what they were and thought I would just go my whole life with them and just live with that condition. But now I am focused on trying to get better because I feel like it has affected my life and the people in my life too much for me to continue living the way I have lived.”
Reflecting on his relatively short time in the sport, Nkhata credits MMA as a positive pathway to handling issues. He also believes that the mindset he now has is not limited to the art of competing. It has led to a positive change in his everyday well-being.
“I think, in a way, fighting was the healthiest avenue for me to deal with problems I didn’t have a healthy way of solving. I think I wanted to become a fighter to just be strong enough to deal with the adversities that life naturally inflicts upon you and I also want to inspire other people. You are either a fighter in life or you are suffering from life because life is a fight. I think it is important for everyone to have a bit of a fighter’s mentality to be able to face their adversities head-on and look their demons in the eye.”
“That is why I want to inspire in other people. I want to help people overcome their challenges. I want people to understand that no one has it easy, but everyone can overcome that difficulty.”
As much as the competition and drive to succeed are big factors in the sport, the coaching aspect of MMA is something that extremely intrigues Nkhata. Having an inherent interest in teaching, he has taught computer science and civil engineering as part of his degree. The Zambian prospect believes that teaching will always be a part of his life and possibly in helping develop the next generation of MMA Zambia athletes.
“Teaching is a passion of mine. I think one way or another I will teach in the future, whether that is in a school or as a coach. I definitely think teaching is going to be a part of my life forever.”
MMA Zambia will have 5 athletes competing at the 2022 Africa Championships. The full team for the event is as follows.
Mwelwa Nkhata – Bantamweight
Jarcel Chimbwe – Featherweight
Ken Nyaondo – Lightweight
Joseph Mwanza – Lightweight
Kelvin Chishimba – Welterweight