By Frank Bonada
A perennial powerhouse at the IMMAF Africa Championships, Team South Africa aims to once again lead the medals table in 2023.
The 2023 IMMAF Africa Championships will present a new challenge for South African athletes as it will be the first time the event takes place outside of their home nation. Instead, it will be held in Luanda, Angola, the home of South Africa’s biggest rivals in the Africa Championships.
However, it’s unlikely that Team South Africa will be deterred by this unfamiliar territory. The team is comprised of young, talented prospects eager to make their mark in the world of mixed martial arts. They are further supported by several returning IMMAF Africa Champions whose experience at this level will undoubtedly have a significant impact on their fellow countrymen and women.
The 2022 IMMAF Africa gold medallists, Philani Shabalala and Kiara Fegen, are both set to return in 2023, aiming to become two-time IMMAF Africa Champions. Shabalala’s memorable KO victory over Mathys Du Randt earned him a spot in the 2022 IMMAF World Championships, where he narrowly missed victory via a judges’ decision. Fegen was a standout performer in the 2022 IMMAF Africa Championships, securing two submission victories, both in under a minute.
One former IMMAF Africa champion who won’t be competing this year is Nicole Van Wyk, who has signed a professional contract with one of Africa’s top promotions, EFC. Van Wyk recently made her pro debut, claiming victory with a second-round TKO at EFC 103. Speaking with IMMAF, the former IMMAF Africa flyweight champion had the following advice for the next generation of South African athletes.
“I’ve learned the hard way that discipline will take you places that motivation NEVER will,” said Van Wyk. “If you want to become a champion, you must accept that you’ll have to do what 99% of the world isn’t doing.
“Give up the ordinary and become exceptional. You must be willing to sacrifice many fleeting pleasures in life to achieve long-term, life-changing goals.”
With past champions like Van Wyk to inspire them, along with the presence of returning gold medallists such as Shabalala and Fegen, South Africa enters Angola with full confidence. Whether they can replicate their past successes remains to be seen. Nevertheless, the stage is set for Team South Africa to deliver another year of sensational performances on the continent’s premier amateur MMA platform.
The 2023 IMMAF Africa Championships will officially be held in Luanda, Angola, from September 15 to 17.