Two set for international competition
Port Elizabeth will be sending its own one-two combination to compete in the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation’s Amateur African Open Championship next week.
The up-and-coming young amateur fighting duo of Reece van der Merwe and Luthando Biko have been included in the South African team to take on the rest of the continent and also competitors from Europe and the US in Johannesburg.
The pair, training partners at the Port Elizabeth Submission Fighting Academy (Pesfa), will be taking a wide range of skills and styles into the event.
Van der Merwe, 20, heads into the tournament fresh from Las Vegas where he competed in the World Amateur Championship last month, while Biko, 26, won gold in the under-60kg division at the Commonwealth Judo Championship in April.
And both have brought home medals from competing in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competitions around the country in recent months.
Van der Merwe, of Summerstrand, goes into next week’s tournament as a featherweight with a record of three wins and two losses, and will be approaching the competition with the same intensity he took to Las Vegas.
“For me, this event is just as big as world champs. We will be fighting international opponents who will test our skills to the fullest.
“Win or lose, it will be an awesome experience and a chance for me to learn,” Van der Merwe said.
“My preparation has been going very well, and I am feeling ready. I can’t wait to step back into the ring.”
For Biko, fighting at bantamweight with a record of two wins and one loss, striking and stand-up fighting has been a crucial part of his training.
“I am confident in my ground fighting skill coming from my judo and jiu-jitsu experience. But my striking is always improving and I feel like my game is becoming well-balanced,” Biko said.
“My goal is to become a professional fighter in the near future, so every chance I get to test myself against a tough opponent is great.”
Pesfa coach Chris Bright said he would be sending his charges into the ring with confidence.
“As far as South African opponents are concerned, I am not worried. So I am looking forward to seeing these two guys take on some international opposition.
“This competition will showcase future professional fighters and international champions, so this is the ultimate test,” Bright said.
The entire Pesfa team had been spending time studying fights at an international level and working towards those standards in their preparations for events, he said.
Wrestling and striking has formed a major part of their training regime, while Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is part of their foundation.
“Our guys are training towards professional careers and breaking into the international market.
“African Champs will be a great place for them to show what they are made of,” Bright said.