Humble Background Of Zimbabwe’s New UFC Fighter Themba Gorimbo Inspires South Africa

Zimbabwean mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Themba Gorimbo made the continent proud this week after becoming the latest African to sign with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

Gorimbo, 31, is the reigning sportsperson of the year in Zimbabwe.

In 2020, he made history by becoming the first EFC MMA champion from Zimbabwe after successfully defending his welterweight title.

Two years on, Gorimbo is now a UFC fighter. On 16 August, the mixed martial arts fighter was awarded a contract in the UFC’s welterweight division.

Gorimbo’s humble journey from his dusty rural home in Zimbabwe to being homeless in South Africa to ultimately storming the UFC in Las Vegas is inspiring.

The MMA fighter was born in a rural area called Bikita in Masvingo, located in the southern part of Zimbabwe.

Gorimbo’s upbringing was rough as he became an orphan at a tender age.

His mother died when he was 9, and his father passed when he was 13.

Gorimbo had to hustle as a minor teen and eke out a living. A diamond rush erupted in Chiadzwa and Marange in eastern Zimbabwe, and he joined the illegal mining and smuggling bandwagon.

He almost died there.

“At the tender age of 16, I became a diamond smuggler in the bloody diamonds of Marange, Zimbabwe, just to get by and look after myself.

The money was nice, but I almost got killed there. If you look at my body, I’ve got scars everywhere because once, I was confronted by the police and the dogs bit me so much.

I had five dogs, German Shepherds, biting me. I almost died. I passed out there. “

Following the near-death experience, Gorimbo decided to skip Zimbabwe in 2008 and set camp illegally in South Africa at 17.

“It was just like a decision; either you want to be here, or you want to be there. I didn’t have a passport.

I came through the river. It was just one of those times you take the sacrifice, which is dangerous to do. A lot of people died.

For a young guy – I was about to turn 18 – it was very difficult. It just showed me what kind of person I was.”
Humble Background Of Zimbabwe’s New UFC Fighter Themba Gorimbo Inspires South Africa
Humble Background Of Zimbabwe’s New UFC Fighter Themba Gorimbo Inspires South Africa
As fate would have hit, Gorimbo was caught by immigration officials and deported back because he did not have a passport.

On the bus back, he disembarked at the first stop in Zimbabwe and stubbornly returned. Three hours later, he had illegally entered South Africa again.

After crossing the border, Gorimbo encountered the worst he had overlooked.

“When you cross illegally into South Africa, it’s not just the police you are running from; you are also running from criminals – they rob people crossing because they know you have money.

The criminals saw us and trapped us. I remember seeing this big knife, and I passed out. It’s like a movie. I fell to the ground, and the rest of the guys ran away. The guys who were robbing us ran after them and left me there.”

Gorimbo regained consciousness and decided to hand himself over to the police. However, one of the people he was with discouraged him, and they headed to Johannesburg.

The UFC fighter lived on the streets, giving out fliers for R20 rand a day so he could buy a drink and bread to eat.

Luckily, he raised enough money to call his cousins in Cape Town and went there.

In Cape Town, he worked as a gardener, painter, and security guard.

In 2010 at the age of 19, Gorimbo watched the movie Never Back Down. His life was never the same.

“I’m like, ‘This a sport, fighting? OK, cool, I think I can do that.’ I come from a fighting family – all my cousins, even my father, used to always fight. It’s in our nature. I got my first fight three months after training. I won it with a seven-second knockout.”

“The Mamba” is now conquering the world and the UFC is the perfect platform for him to achieve his ultimate dream.
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