‘Zulu Boy’ Defends His Flyweight Title At EFC 75 – What He Told Us
MH Writer Thaaqib Daniels sat with Nkazimulo Zulu just days before he fought then undefeated submission specialist, Gary Joshua. Speaking to him at his hotel room in Cape Town, this is what Zulu told him.
Search for the definition of “champion” on your computer, within seconds you’ll get a result that looks something like this: “a champion is a person who has surpassed all rivals in a sporting contest or other competition.” I had a similar experience when I sat across from a man wearing a Zulu traditional headband, a gold title-belt over his shoulder, and the most focused gaze you could imagine. Within seconds, I knew what a champion was.
Nkazimulo Zulu is the current EFC Flyweight Champion and is set to defend this title at the Grand West Arena in Cape Town on Saturday. His opponent and hometown hero, Gary Joshua, is an undefeated submission specialist who’s looking to use the local support to his advantage and hopes to claim the title. But the Zuluboy is by no means a pushover, the 29-year-old from Newcastle, KZN, has punched and kicked his way to earning the respect of everyone he’s encountered – both inside and outside of the ring. This is his story.
A Fighting Start
“I used to fight a lot when I was younger,” says Zulu. “Growing up, there would be fights every week. Sometimes I would even go up against a bigger guy and come home with a swollen eye or two. That’s when my mom decided to put me in karate classes so I could learn to defend myself.”
A six-year-old Nkazimulo would soon become a karate prodigy, winning all of the competitions that he entered. He continued doing karate throughout his schooling years. And later on in life his passion for fighting would enter a new chapter.
“When I came up to Johannesburg for college, I found this guy—Mark Hey—who did kickboxing. I trained with him, and he was very good. At the time, I didn’t have the quickest hands when it came to kickboxing. Under Mark’s supervision, I learned how to throw elbows and knees as well as dodge punches coming my way.”
After training with Mark, he started competing and immediately built a winning streak. “This made me more confident in my abilities and I believed in myself more.”
A New Kind Of Fight
Zulu’s fighting career was on the rise, he was winning fights and improving his skill. Before he knew it, he stumbled across MMA (mixed martial arts).
“At first I wasn’t really into it, because these MMA guys were grappling and holding each other during the fight, and I was getting into Muay Thai, which hardly does any grappling,” he says.
“But when I experienced it I gained more respect for the style and wanted to learn more. I knew this is what I needed to do to become a complete fighter. I wanted to grow in all aspects of martial arts.”
Looking up to the likes of Leon Mynhardt, Don Madge and Anderson Silva, he made the jump into the world of MMA, hoping to make a name for himself in unfamiliar territory, but this transition would not come easy.
“My first MMA fight was my first loss. Ever. It was heartbreaking. My opponent kept taking me down instead of standing and fighting. It was frustrating because I couldn’t strike him. How can you strike someone who’s just holding you and taking you to ground? I needed to learn more.”
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Zulu would go on to become the EFC Bantamweight champion after beating Charlie Weyer. He would later lose this title to Demarte Pena. He then changed from Bantamweight to Flyweight because he felt it suited him better.
“I felt more comfortable in Flyweight because the guys in Bantamweight were bigger and had an advantage over me. They could just perform a takedown and use their weight against me. So I changed to Flyweight and earned the Flyweight Championship Belt, which I will defend on Saturday.”
Just Another Day In The Ring
“I don’t have a pre-fight ritual, or spend a lot of time mentally preparing. I just go in and do it because I don’t have any fear going into the ring. That fear doesn’t exist to me.”
Zulu will be facing the undefeated Joshua, but he’s not letting that get to him. “I feel confident going into Saturday’s fight, but that doesn’t mean I’m underestimating my opponent. I think it’s going to be a good fight because both of us have put in a lot of work.”
The defending champ has been analysing his opponent’s fighting style and looking for ways that to capitalize in the ring.”Each and every fight I have a different game plan, the attack strategy may be different for each opponent. I’m always trying to fix something in my own fighting, and move better, strike better.”
It has been his dream to hold a title and defend it. Speaking to him, it looks like he’ll do whatever it takes to keep it.”It was an amazing feeling to win this title, because I’ve always wanted to be a world champion. And now it’s a reality. But I don’t let that distract me from my goals.
“In the back of my mind, I’m always reminded of how hard I worked to get here, and how hard I have to work to stay at the top,” and he doesn’t plan on going down anytime soon. “Different day. Different fight. Same objective : win,” he adds.
Catch Nkazimulo Zulu in action this Saturday at EFC 75 taking place at the Grand West Arena, Cape Town. He’ll be defending his title against hometown favourite Gary Joshua in what’s sure to be an action-packed brawl.