Rising local Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) talent Frikkie Bendeman claimed the biggest title of his fledgling career when he triumphed in the light heavyweight division of the Africa Open Championships over the past weekend.
The 26-year-old Bendeman, who trains out of East London Martial Arts and Fitness Centre in Arcadia, was competing at the Africa champs for the first time and managed to take the title.
“I was so excited when I won,” said Bendeman.
“I was just going there to compete and experience it. But then again you don’t go all that way and not go for the win and I had sponsors, friends and family who were backing me, so I didn’t want to be a disappointment to the people who helped me get there.”
In the final Bendeman came up against fellow South African Dimitri Fog from Pretoria, with the fight going the distance and Bendeman coming away with a points victory to claim the title.
“It was the toughest fight I have ever had but I came away with the gold,” said Bendeman.
“He is a great guy. We had no bad blood. We promised each other we would go in and give our all and come out still friends and that is what happened.”
Bendeman was selected for the SA amateur team after impressing in the Chosen Championship competition in Port Elizabeth over the year. He fought three times, claiming big wins in each fight, managing two knock outs and a technical knock out, all in the first round.
“It was a big surprise when I was picked. At the start of the year I was just begging to get a fight and now it’s just going very well,” said Bendeman.
“There were only two guys from the Eastern Cape who made the SA amateur team and 22 in total that took part.
“I was very nervous. It was the biggest competition I had ever been in so I didn’t know what to expect. It is supposed to be the best of the best, so it was tough.”
Bendeman only returned to fighting MMA earlier this year, after an injury when he first started two years ago, and had to put his plans on hold.
“I started MMA in 2015 and had my first fight in July, but then due to a work injury I had to put my training on hold and only started training again in August last year,” said Bendeman.
He will now be heading back to the Chosen Championship in Port Elizabeth in October, before setting his sights on the world champs in Bahrain in November.
“Next I have a title fight at the Chosen Championship, where I will be fighting another guy from East London, Sipho Fodo, who is on a five fight win streak I think, so it is going to be a big challenge,” said Bendeman.
“Then in November it is the world champs, which I am so excited for. It is an opportunity you can’t miss if you are picked.
“I can’t wait. It is the fight everyone wants and the fight you always work for.
“I will now be doing lots of fitness, work on a few small things plus my defence, because if you can’t defend you can’t win.”
Bendeman’s ultimate goal is to go pro, and it is something he will now be working towards.
“I have taken a lot from the Africa Champs and it has shown me I still have a lot of work to do if I want to go any further,” said Bendeman.