Tears of blood and hard work

Zama Ntinga celebrates with her coaches Rian Dunn, left, and Tollie Enslin after her win on June 9. Picture: Supplied

Zama Ntinga celebrates with her coaches Rian Dunn, left, and Tollie Enslin after her win on June 9. Picture: Supplied

Published Jun 16, 2024


Durban — Zama Ntinga from Mandeni is showing the world that Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is not only for men, claiming victory in her first organised fight.

“I was so excited to win my first ever organised fight, my tears were like blood. The tears of my hard work. I didn’t believe I would win the fight because I thought my opponent was more experienced. It was my first time in the cage, it was a great moment for me,” said the 18-year-old Grade 10 pupil from Siyavikelwa High School after her win in Durban on Sunday.

Zama said even though MMA was widely known as a men’s sport, there was plenty of room for women to grow and men helped her tackle certain issues.

“In my gym I am the only woman fighter, so I gain many skills from them as they help me when I have problems.

“They are stronger, but somehow, I don’t feel that anymore.

“When I fight my opponents, which are women, I have an advantage because I have learnt my skills from sparring with men,” she said.

Zama is coached by three-time kickboxing World Champion Tollie Enslin and Rian Dunn, who recently turned pro.

The national age group champion has lived at Blessed Gérard’s Children’s Home for eight years since her father died. When she was 14, she visited the Wolverine Warriors Gym for the first time with her friends and MMA caught her attention.

“I initially started liking MMA because my dad was a karate fighter. I saw pictures of him wearing his karate suit. My grandmother would always tell me stories about what a good fighter he was, which is why I found my way to the sport.”

Zama Ntinga with her coach, Tollie Enslin.

She said the “tough sport” also helped her with life skills.

“In MMA there is losing and winning, just like in life; there are a lot of challenges you will face and have to overcome.

“Although I was scared of getting hurt the first time, I am not scared anymore. I used to be scared of getting a blue eye but now I’m comfortable with the way the game could go.

“The training does get hard at the gym when sparring with men. In the beginning I would take my gloves off and go home, but the anger both motivates and discourages me. My trainers and other fighters always tell me that this is how you learn and grow as a fighter to get where you want to be.”

Zama trains from Monday to Thursday but when tournaments start, she will train the whole week.

“My training programme consists of running, lots of cardio and all techniques that make an MMA fighter who they are, we spar, grapple and so on.”

She said the sauna added a vital skill: “It helps with our breathing, which is important during fights. The sauna is hot and not easy to breathe in so it helps me control my breathing.”

Maintaining her training in winter is difficult because it gets dark early and she has to cut her hours to get home safely.

“I am grateful to my coaches and the effort they have put in to help me grow in the sport, their world-class coaching helps me a lot and I know with them, I will reach success. They motivate and inspire me to be better and do better.”

Zama had her first organised fight on June 9, where she won against Linda Brazza through three rounds in the 55-57kg category. She won with a unanimous vote with all the judges agreeing she was the better fighter and overall top scorer.

“I hope my journey inspires other women to join MMA.”

Zama hopes to be a professional MMA fighter and dreams of competing in top international competitions.

Independent on Saturday