Bay mixed martial arts legend hands over to the next generation

ON WATCH: Mixed martial arts trainer Chris Bright watches Reece van der Merwe, back, getting to grips with Cameron Pritchard at his Kings Court gym. Picture by: Mike Holmes
ON WATCH: Mixed martial arts trainer Chris Bright watches Reece van der Merwe, back, getting to grips with Cameron Pritchard at his Kings Court gym. Picture by: Mike Holmes

WHILE a South African mixed martial arts (MMA) legend has decided to hang up his gloves, one of his proteges made an explosive debut as a professional fighter this past weekend.

After a successful career as a professional fighter, Port Elizabeth’s Chris Bright, 41, has decided to take a step back and leave competitive fighting for the younger fighters.

“The decision to retire was not made overnight,” he said yesterday. “I am 41 and I have been battling with torn ligaments in my knee for some time. I will still be competing as a grappler, but the time has come for me to give MMA a rest.”

Arguably one of the best fighters in the world, competing in the welterweight and lightweight divisions, Bright’s 16-year international career consisted of 27 wins and three losses. He recently became the first person in the Eastern Cape to receive his black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, one of only a handful in the country.

“Besides the knee I am probably in the best shape of my life, but my focus will now shift towards my family,” he said. “But I will still be running my gym and training with my fighters.”

One of these fighters, Reece van der Merwe, 18, burst on to the MMA scene this past weekend when he competed in his first amateur fight at Bloemfontein Fight Night.

The first-year NMMU student knocked his opponent Tiaan Stassen out, one minute and 20 seconds into the first round.

“He took the first swing, sending a few kicks my way. I knew his stand-up fighting was his strength, so when I saw the opportunity I tackled him to the ground,” Van der Merwe said.

“When I got into a dominant position I threw some punches, trying to chip away at his defence. Luckily I managed to knock him out.

“I have been training with Chris for six years. I started with jiu jitsu and progressed to MMA from there.”

Bright said Van der Merwe showed no inexperience in the ring and this win, as well as the manner in which he won, made a big statement that would definitely attract attention.

“We are proud of his strong debut and we will make sure that he comes out even stronger when the time comes for his next fight,” Bright said.

-Riaan Marais 

Leave a Reply