Injuries, poverty and all manner of life’s obstacles can hamper the careers of some of MMA’s brightest prospects. However, to say Lewis Mataya has been through the wringer, even when compared to the stories of his fellow athletes, is still somewhat of an understatement.
Growing up in southern Africa, he went through a plethora of life’s toughest challenges, having lost both his parents at an early age, which resulted in him growing up in a house of 13 people. Despite this, he powered through, finding solace in the martial arts.
Lewis “Porcupine” Mataya is an amateur lightweight MMA fighter, hailing from Zimbabwe. In 2022, he would capture the attention of many an MMA fan, after a successful campaign in the IMMAF Africa Championships resulted in him taking home the gold medal.
Mataya’s run in the Africa Championships saw him pick up three impressive back-to-back victories.
Making his amateur MMA debut, Mataya would face off against Allistar Kunene, who already had seven fights on his record. Mataya quickly proved he was more than up for the task, dominating Kunene en-route to a decision victory.
In his second fight of the tournament, Mataya was matched up with Geraldo Bok, who had picked up a second round TKO in his first bout. However, Bok’s striking heavy style gave the “Porcupine” the opportunity to showcase his own finishing ability. Bok was TKO’d in the second round, and fans of MMA truly started to take note of Lewis Mataya.
In the final bout of the tournament, Mataya found himself standing opposite Ken Nyaondo, who at the time held a perfect 5-0 undefeated record. Whilst many a young prospect may have been intimidated by facing off against such a skilled opponent so early on in their career, Mataya instead rose to the occasion. He went toe to toe with Nyaondo, claiming a unanimous decision victory, as well as the gold medal.
Mataya appeared poised to take the world by storm, with his flashy striking backed up by an outspoken and confident personality, traits that thrive in the sport of MMA.
However, when travelling to Johannesburg, South Africa, Mataya found himself in serious trouble. The young Zimbabwean was stopped by immigration officers and was accused of being in possession of a fraudulent visa.
In a recent interview with Sporf, Mataya would reveal that he later discovered that the visa he had received from a ‘home affairs agent’ had been a dupe and that he had been scammed.
Mataya was locked up in Kempton Police Station, charged with breaching Section 49 of the SA constitution. From this point on, Mataya was forced to run the circuit of what he describes as “a very unfair system.”
Speaking with Sporf, he revealed the following:
“The lawyer I paid about R13,000 to didn’t even attend court. He sent his intern to the courtroom; He was not there for the hearing. All he did was send an officer to me outside the courtroom to say: Hey, you’ve been found guilty. Just sign here and pay the fine. And you can leave the system of criminals.”
After being released, Mataya would be forced to pay for his own flight back to Zimbabwe. He would later decide to return to South Africa in an attempt to take the issue to the Supreme Court and have his name cleared. However, Mataya would not be allowed through the county’s borders, with immigration officers informing him that his passport is blocked from the South African Home Affairs system for the next five years.
Despite having to overcome these hardships, Lewis Mataya is still focused on continuing his fledgling MMA career. ‘The Porcupine’ was recently back in action, competing in Zambian promotion, Fist of Valor, where he picked up an impressive decision victory over Joseph Mwanza.
Still in the early stages of his MMA career, it appears that being forced to endure such adversity has only strengthened the resolve of the undefeated Zimbabwean.
The next steps for Lewis Mataya are currently unclear, but the “Porcupine” is brimming with potential, and will undoubtedly make his mark wherever he goes.