Themba Gorimbo puts Zimbabwe on the map with UFC win

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2R2G1WH May 19, 2023, LAS VEGAS, LAS VEGAS, NV, United States: LAS VEGAS, NV - May 19: Themba Gorimbo steps on the scale for the official weigh-in at the UFC Apex for UFC Vegas 73 - Dern vs Hill - weigh-ins on May 19, 2023 in LAS VEGAS, United States. (Credit Image: © Louis Grasse/PX Imagens via ZUMA Press Wire) EDITORIAL USAGE ONLY! Not for Commercial USAGE! Credit: ZUMA Press, Inc./Alamy Live News

Las Vegas – It’s not a rags-to-riches story just yet, but UFC welterweight Themba Gorimbo is on his way…

The welterweight faced off against Takashi Sato on UFC Fight Night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Seeing wrestling as his path to victory, Gorimbo shot and controlled Sato against the cage for most of the first round. Gorimbo’s big moment came at the start of the second, when an overhand right floored Sato. He pounced, raining hammer fists and emptying the gas tank, but the referee felt Sato had done enough to escape danger.

But it mattered little, as Gorimbo got his hand raised after a unanimous decision went his way, marking his first victory in the promotion and a first for Zimbabwean MMA.

Hailing from the small district of Bikita in eastern Zimbabwe, Gorimbo came from very little, living a life without his father.

Fast forward to 2020 and his worries were forgotten for a second as was crowned EFC welterweight champion, another first for a Zimbabwean. The EFC title served as a gateway to other promotions and Gorimbo fought under the UAE Warriors banner and Fury FC before finally signing a UFC contract.

A bundle of nerves in his UFC debut, Gorimbo would get choked out by AJ Fletcher in February. The loss led to a chorus of disappointment from back home, something he alluded to in his post-fight interview.

“Straight after my loss, when I got home, everybody [looked at me] like a guy that was smelling like s**t,” he told MMA Mania‘s Alex Behunin.

“You know, people kind of ignored me. People that I helped kind of ignored me. A lot of people, even people that were close to me, some of them are called my friends… even my own brother.”

But it’s only from the bottom that you can build yourself up. Gorimbo recommitted to his training regime in Kayalami, South Africa, to make amends for his loss.

Preparations included a seven-week training camp in the US, which virtually left him broke. In fact, he later revealed he had $7 in his bank account on fight night.

Despite overcoming incredible obstacles just to get to Vegas, there was one more waiting for Gorimbo: A flu on fight day. Even with significantly compromised cardio, he ground out arguably the most meaningful victory of his career.

Revelling in his deserved victory, he was philosophical about his doubters back home.

“When you are on this journey, sometimes you get caught up and you think everything is fine,” continued the 32-year-old.

“But when you lose… that’s when the real stuff starts popping up. For those that ridiculed me back home, for those that backstabbed [me]… God bless them. I’m on my own path now. I didn’t lose them, they lost me.”

Going forward, Gorimbo plans to spend significantly more time in the US training.

“I came from the gutters and I picked myself up… I’ve done my part in Africa,” he reflected.

“From now on, my camp is always going to be in America, in Miami, all the way to the belt. As a person that didn’t have money, when I signed the UFC contract and they told me you could actually get food from the UFC too, I was like “really!?” They sent [me] three meals a day.”

But Gorimbo is still a man of the people.

Right after his maiden UFC win, he auctioned off his fight kit to raise funds for a water pump in his hometown. And he confirmed that he wouldn’t be moving to the US permanently, but only for fight camps before the fight. After all, Gorimbo wants his story to motivate the next generation of African fighters…

“Me moving away from Africa to train and win my fights in America does not take away anything from me being from Africa,” he exclaimed.

“From where I come from, the village in Zimbabwe to make it to South Africa, to make it through the ranks, to become the champion, to make it to Abu Dhabi, to pay my own flights to New Orleans, to get in the UFC, to lose my first fight, to find myself again, to go to Miami and get this win under the circumstances I was in – being sick on the day with the flu – this is the American Dream… this is a story that can inspire a lot of African kids.”

 

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