Taka ‘The Cat’ Mhandu makes his first foray into the world of professional mixed martial arts on Saturday, having enjoyed as splendid an amateur run as one could map out. However, Saturday brings much more baggage than a first outing under the EFC banner for the 23-year-old, it also plants the seeds for what seems to be an almost destined return to roots.
The highly-touted bantamweight prospect begins the first of a six-fight course under the Extreme Fighting Championship banner, having established a perfect six-fight run as an amateur.
The Team KF Martial Arts trainee, a product of head coaches, Chris Fields, and Tom King, makes the trip from Swords, Ireland to Johannesburg, South Africa, roughly a 1248km stones’ throw to neighboring roots, Zimbabwe.
Mhandu, who lost his father at a young age, bravely turned down the opportunity to attend the burial of his father back in Zimbabwe, instead, insisted that his mother travel in his place due to costs.
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“I hadn’t had the chance to visit Zimbabwe in about 11 years and after my father passed away they wanted me to fly back to represent the family as the oldest male child, but I told my mam to go because it cost too much money for both of us to go,” Mhandu said. “Now that I’ll be fighting literally beside Zimbabwe, I can finally see his grave, visit my family I haven’t seen in many years, and reconnect with my roots. I’m exactly where I need to be to become the person I’ve always wanted to be and it’s exciting.“
Before I even managed to string the words from my mouth in a bid to suggest an almost destined or fated return so close to his cradle, Mhandu wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment, explaining how the first thought when issued a contract by the South African-based promotion, was destiny.
“It really does have that feeling, like it’s destiny,” Mhandu agreed. “To get this contract and return home, that was the first thought I had in my mind when I found out about it. Being brought back so close to Zimbabwe to do what I love is unimaginable to me five years ago when I finished school. I always had it in my mind to do MMA but for it to have worked exactly the way it did, it’s really something special.“
Given the passing of his father at a young age, the aforenoted Team KF coach, Fields has been described as a pillar in the development of Mhandu’s career and life, with the 23-year-old describing their relationship as “once in a generation“.
“My relationship with Chris (Fields) is really something only seen once every generation, he’s like a father figure, a big brother, a coach, for all of us on the team,” Mhandu said. “There’s a real synergy between us when it comes to development in the gym and then on fight night.“
With his upcoming debut set to land deep within The Cradle of Humankind — Mhandu scores the opportunity to kick start a professional run with massive aspirations, so close to his roots and ancestral home.
Senior writer for FightBook MMA. An aspiring mixed martial arts reporter based in Ireland. Producer of news articles, interviews, opinion features, and exclusive features such as, ‘The Fallout’, ‘The Breakdown, and, ‘This Week In MMA’.
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