CAPE TOWN – Even before Demi-Lee van Zyl received the gold medal at the South African Mixed Martial Arts Championship (MMASA) earlier this year, she has proven to be a champion in life.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic and the lockdown that followed, most had to stay in their homes and operate within the boundaries of their residences. For many, there has been a decline in physical activity and an increase in food intake.
Van Zyl, however – who retired from MMASA nationals in 2019 – has made it his mission to tackle any weight issues in 2020, not only for personal reasons, but also to improve his chances and performance in his mixed martial arts career.
“Unfortunately, it wasn’t just about being unable to match the weight to fight, I was also facing a family issue at the time, but weight was definitely a big factor,” says the 19-year-old. years of Newcastle, KwaZulu- Natal.
“2019 has been my matrix year, and I’m a stress eater… that’s one thing,” Van Zyl says with a nervous laugh, referring to the origin of some of the weight problems.
“Due to the stress of my school year and the fact that I wasn’t in the gym so much, I gradually gained weight. “
In 2020, she began to take her MMA seriously again and quickly tried her hand at the MMASA Championship trials.
“It turned out to be much harder to lose weight naturally than you expected.
“So I dedicated the whole of 2020 and the lockdown to getting back in shape and getting back into the right frame of mind for the sport.”
She then had her first amateur MMA fight in November 2020 where she met another debutante and Chelsea Hubner from Gauteng at the Alpha Mixed Martial Arts 11 event.
“I got whipped, lol,” Van Zyl said humbly after his opponent finished him with a technical knockout at the start of the first round of their fight.
After beating Londiwe Hadebe in the preliminary round of the 2021 MMSA Nationals at Edenvale, Van Zyl has again been aligned with his former opponent. This time, things turned out very differently as she got stuck in a choke at the back within 60 seconds of the rematch with Hubner.
“It was such a huge moment for me to overcome this emotional and mental barrier. You know you lost to someone and you wonder “if this is going to end the same way?” “
Van Zyl has openly expressed his admiration for Chelsea, who also have an “incredible personality” to boot.
“She’s phenomenal. I completely admire him and I couldn’t have wished my first fight was against someone else, ”said Van Zyl.
“Our first fight gave me so much motivation to get stronger and better, and to get back to it and prove a point that I don’t want to start like this, so I’m definitely not going to end like this. It’s definitely something to overcome… the mental barriers of losing your first fight.
“You ask yourself ‘are you going to make a change and are you going to be mentally stronger in the moment to overcome your fears? And then I realized that “yes I can do it, mixed martial arts is for me”.
Van Zyl has been selected to travel with the South African team to Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan, for the senior and junior world championships from November 27 to December 4.
She said she was doing various fundraisers to help her with her expenses (an estimated budget of R35,000) for the trip.
Van Zyl will compete in the junior lightweight division in Kazakhstan and is thrilled with the challenge ahead.
“I look forward to working with our coaches (William Oberholzer, Dallas Jakobi, Michael Mouneimne and JP Kruger) and my teammates. I can’t wait to learn a lot more from them and grow more, ”she added.
Van Zyl has overcome many personal challenges before, and if she can adopt the same mindset that has seen her overcome her fears and obstacles, then soon the rest of the planet will know her name as well.
* You can watch the full video interview on the YouTube channel of MzansiMMA, Independent Media’s combat sports media partner.