Themba Gorimbo is focused on what he can control

Zimbabwe's Themba Gorimbo has Championship aspirations, but he knows he first needs to take care of business at UFC Fight Night: Barboza vs Murphy


By Thomas Gerbasi

Florida – If you’re in this business long enough, you’ll see a lot of things. But in over two decades of covering this sport, I have never had an interview interrupted by “The Rock.”

Yes, as I spoke to up-and-coming UFC welterweight Themba Gorimbo, “The Answer” paused to let me know that WWE and Hollywood superstar Dwayne Johnson had texted to thank him for the birthday wishes he sent.

In a nutshell, that’s been the life of Gorimbo since May 20 of last year, when he scored his first UFC victory over Takashi Sato.

After that win, the Zimbabwe native’s story got out to the world, and it caught the attention of Johnson.

That connection went viral, a home was bought, and a friendship was born. And with the world now watching, Gorimbo returned to the Octagon in February and stopped Pete Rodriguez in 32 seconds. On Saturday, he faces Ramiz Brahimaj.

That’s quite a year.

“Oh, life has changed drastically,” said Gorimbo.

“In a great way, life has completely changed. Now I’m on a winning streak, continuing to win fights, inspiring the world with my story, going after what I want, which is to become the champion, one fight at a time.”

Owning the UFC welterweight crown has always been the goal for the 33-year-old, but, at times, it’s been little more than a dream, as he battled through the ups and downs of a pro fighting career.

Losing his UFC debut to AJ Fletcher in February of 2023 didn’t help, but fate has a funny way of making its presence felt, and when he beat Sato, everything clicked, so as he prepares for his fourth walk to the Octagon, this is a fight week like no other as he thinks about where he’s at and where he’s been.

“It’s an emotional week for me, because a year ago, around that time, I was dead broke, and now I’m in a better position in life, which is very touching to me,” he said.

“I always say that everything comes from God, and I’m blessed and I’m going to do great things. It’s just a start. I’m going to do great things for myself, for other people that I can, and just keep on doing my thing.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 03: Themba Gorimbo of Zimbabwe reacts after his knockout victory over Pete Rodriguez in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 03, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Oh yeah, let’s not forget that his first priority after beating Sato was helping the less fortunate back home. And he’s kept on giving back, prompting me to call him the nicest guy in the UFC. It’s praise he won’t accept.

“I don’t believe so,” Gorimbo said.

I insist.

“I’m just a guy,” he counters. “I don’t want to say I’m the nicest because you can meet me in a different time and place and you’ll find me grumpy, just like anybody is sometimes, and then you take me for what I am at the moment. And people can make their own opinions. But one thing I respect is what my manager always says: you’re not as good as they say, and you’re not as bad as you think you are. I’m somewhere in between.”

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – FEBRUARY 18: (L-R) Themba Gorimbo of Zimbabwe kicks AJ Fletcher in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on February 18, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

That honesty makes Gorimbo even more likable, and it’s that honesty and willingness to think of others before himself that make him a great example not just to his kids, but everyone. It’s a much needed jolt of fresh air, and when you add that to his current winning streak, it sounds like everything is coming together for him. But he’s not calling names…yet.

“I’m here in the UFC and I just fight whoever they put in front of me,” he said. “If you are someone outside of the UFC trying to become a UFC champion, then it’s a different story. But I’m already in the organization that I’m going to be the champion, so every fight is a good fight in the UFC and every fight moves me closer to what I want to be. Whether it’s a ranked guy or an unranked guy, it does not matter. What I need to do is to just go there and win.”

That singularity of purpose is serving Gorimbo well. For all his new notoriety, he remains the same guy he was when he trying to earn a UFC contract. If anything, he’s working harder, refusing to let the trappings of fame deter him on his way to gold. And fighting in the UFC APEX without an arena packed with fans isn’t an issue either.

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA – MAY 20: (L-R) Themba Gorimbo of Zimbabwe punches Takashi Sato of Japan in a welterweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on May 20, 2023 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

“I would love in front of a crowd, but I will fight where and when the UFC wants me to fight, and I’m not entitled to anything,” he said.

“I am just a guy from Zimbabwe that is going to become the UFC champion. And to become that, you have to be able to do what is necessary, what is in front of you, what you are asked to do. Because getting a title in this organization, it’s a shark tank and you can be eaten very quickly. So, for me, I’m just going to be grateful and do what I need to do every single day, work my butt off and win every fight until I become undeniable, and I become the champion. That’s what I can control. I can’t control where I fight.”

Here comes the mic drop, one his friend “The Rock” would be proud of.

“My goal is to become the UFC welterweight champion and that will happen in front of a crowd.”



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