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Helping a 16-year-old MMA champion fight in Abu Dhabi

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Sara-Jayne Makwala King talks to Umar Edwards from Athlone, who is trying to make it to the United Arab Emirates Youth Mixed Martial Arts World Championship.

16-year-old mixed martial arts champion Umar Edwards and Sara-Jayne.Photo: Cape Talk
16-year-old mixed martial arts champion Umar Edwards and Sara-Jayne.Photo: Cape Talk

A 16-year-old Cape Town MMA fighter wants to get into a cage in the United Arab Emirates, but needs your help.

Umar Edwards from Athlone is determined to showcase his skills at the IMMAF Youth Mixed Martial Arts World Championships in August.

The passionate and dynamic student at Pinelands High School has launched a ‘Support Friends’ funding campaign.

Edwards started with his Fighter Corp club in 2020 and has been climbing the ranks since then.

He started playing rugby as a kid and credits wrestling with his older brother as the reason for his love of combat sports.

But an altercation at a football game kicked off his MMA journey.

My dad told me that I should train in an active way and do MMA. I’ve been honing and perfecting my craft ever since. Since I started MMA, my grades have improved and my relationship with my family has improved. I’ve really improved as a person.

Umar Edwards, mixed martial artist

Mixed martial arts incorporate techniques from boxing, wrestling, judo, jiu-jitsu, karate, muay thai and other disciplines.

Different categories have different rules.

There are three rounds in the under-17 competition, each round lasts two minutes, and players are not allowed to hit each other in the face.

Edwards has achieved excellent results in multiple mixed martial arts competitions across the country.

Three to five months after joining Fighter Corp, I qualified for the Western Cape tryouts. I participated in the national competition in 2021 and won the silver medal. In the final, I met someone with much more experience and got choked. In 2022, I had bad luck and won the silver medal again.

Umar Edwards, mixed martial artist

In 2023, I played three games. In the second game, I dominated but injured my leg. In the finals, I ended up losing to a guy I had beaten twice before. I also won my first Jiu-Jitsu competition this year.

Umar Edwards, mixed martial artist

Edwards said he is focused on his goals and growing in the sport.

It’s about the discipline of training every day. I also think about my opponents and what they are doing.

Umar Edwards, mixed martial artist

Edwards’ “Back-a-Buddy” campaign aims to fund his airfare, lodging, races and equipment purchases.

Athletes in the sport currently receive no government funding, and Edwards relies mostly on his father.

To support this initiative, please visit here.

Scroll up for the interview.


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