Cris Cyborg is optimistic about MMA growth in Africa after helping launch the women’s commission at the MMA Zambia Symposium

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MIXED MARTIAL ARTS legend Cris Cyborg is optimistic about the growth of mixed martial arts in Africa after attending the inaugural MMA Symposium in Zambia last month.

The Bellator women’s featherweight world champion was the guest of honor at the event in the Zambian capital of Lusaka last November, held to further raise the profile of the sport.

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Mixed martial arts legend Cris Cyborg was the guest of honor at the inaugural MMA Zambia Symposium late last year
Bellator's featherweight queen taught a self-defense class and helped found Africa's first women's MMA commission

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Bellator’s featherweight queen taught a self-defense class and helped found Africa’s first women’s MMA commission
Cyborg also visited an orphanage during her time in Zambia

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Cyborg also visited an orphanage during her time in Zambia

During her time in Zambia, Cyborg visited an orphanage and taught self-defense classes for women.

When asked about her time in Zambia, Cyborg, real name Cristiane Justino, told SunSport: “That was it [an] great experience, I’ll be back.”

Along with the growth of the sport, Mixed Martial Arts Zambia aims to “encourage more Zambian women and girls to take up the sport of MMA”.

MMA Zambia’s inaugural symposium coincided with the launch of Africa’s first and only women’s commission.

Former UFC champion Cyborg said: “I think women’s MMA is going to grow a lot. You really have to devote yourself [yourself] for training trust your trainer – he will tell you when you are ready to fight. And believe and trust the journey.

“So train hard, do your best, the fight will eventually happen and you will be ready.

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“And for MMA to get bigger in Africa I think it needs more guys like Ben [Bush].”

Additionally, the newly government-recognized federation aims to use sport “as a metaphor for life lessons and [raises] Raising awareness of issues such as gender-based violence, drug and alcohol abuse, mental health and other issues affecting disadvantaged children”.

MMA Zambia’s goals – particularly the club’s program for at-risk youth – resonated with Cyborg, who knows firsthand of MMA’s ability to empower those less fortunate.

She said: “Being a world champion is a big responsibility. Wherever God puts you, if He makes you a champion, it’s not to be a champion for yourself, but for something else, whether it’s to make a difference in the world and improve people’s lives change, but I want the champion to be heart for my people.

“So I really like what Benjamin is doing here in Zambia with MMAZ (Mixed Martial Arts Zambia) using this sport of MMA.

“This sport has helped me get strong, even though it’s tough, I work every day to come back stronger.

“So this project is helping to empower vulnerable youth and women and to raise awareness of sport in this country as a vehicle for positive social change for its people and their communities.

“It’s this part of my life that I enjoy the most, helping others wherever I am and using my experience and platform as an example to give people hope for a better life.”

The first MMA Zambia Symposium was a great success

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The first MMA Zambia Symposium was a great success
A beaming Cris Cyborg poses with Zambia MMA President Benjamin Bush

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A beaming Cris Cyborg poses with Zambia MMA President Benjamin Bush

Cyborg’s presence at the symposium was a big step in the right direction for Mixed Martial Arts Zambia.

President Benjamin Bush said, “This was tremendous because for us, Cris represents everything we do in terms of women’s empowerment and awareness of gender-based violence.

“And it was the perfect opportunity for us to set up the Women’s Commission, which is the first in Africa.”

MMA Zambia became part of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation family last July but has already made great strides towards its goal of using the sport for youth empowerment and social change.

In October, Bush said, “There’s so much interest in MMA that when it’s not football everyone’s talking mixed martial arts.

“Young men and women either want to be football stars or become the next Amanda Nunes or Israel Adesanya. It’s literally such a big deal here.

“We want to use this momentum to empower Zambia’s youth, use sport for positive social change, support economic empowerment through sport and create future champions.

“The government recognition gives us the authority and support to safely implement functional development and regulatory structures, in other words MMA Zambia can ensure the integrity and safety of the sport while using the sport to make a difference.

Bush was instrumental in the growth of mixed martial arts in Zambia

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Bush was instrumental in the growth of mixed martial arts in Zambia

“We can literally embed values, training programs and development paths into the development of the sport that energize and empower young people, whether they succeed as athletes or not.”

Currently only three gyms in Zambia are able to teach MMA to an IMMAF standard, which has led to coaches in the country being urged to obtain certification from the governing body.

But with the seeds of tangible social change now being planted, Bush is optimistic that MMA Zambia and the sport itself will have a profound impact on youth across the country.

He said: “MMA Zambia believes that the sport of MMA can transform lives, not only through athletic endeavors, but also through its inspirational qualities, the values ​​within martial arts practice, the work ethic and sportsmanship in martial arts, and the personalities that make up the sport will produce .

“Because Zambia is a developing economy, the gap between rich and poor is significant and many people live below the poverty line.

“This leads to various problems such as youth unemployment, children taking on the role of breadwinners, street prostitution and many other problems that lead to broken communities such as drug and alcohol abuse, mental health issues, gender based violence and many more. MMA can do its part to help address these issues head-on.

Bush is confident that MMA Zambia and the sport itself will achieve its goal of helping the country's disenfranchised

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Bush is confident that MMA Zambia and the sport itself will achieve its goal of helping the country’s disenfranchised

“We wouldn’t be a productive association if we didn’t care about the communities around us. We want to use our platform to uplift others, and we want to do so in a way that works with government and its international partners to advance their long-term youth development agendas.

“The sport and its popularity can be used to inspire others. We have developed a program for at-risk youth that uses MMA to address all of the above issues and more, mental health, gender-based violence, drug and alcohol abuse, literacy, entrepreneurship, etc. – all through MMA.

“We intend to integrate this into our sports development strategy and encourage uptake of the program across the country. We want to create role models for future generations. We want to make a difference and are grateful to be working with IMMAF to achieve our goals.”

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