South Africa’s Chad “Superman” Hanekom is one win away from making MMA history. The former professional rugby player gets his shot at becoming the first African fighter to capture a world title on home soil this Saturday at BRAVE CF 31.
Hanekom, is due to meet Brazil’s Daniel Souza in the main event of BRAVE 31, which will be held inside the Sibaya Casino in the coastal city of Durban. The prize on offer is the right to be crowned the inaugural BRAVE CF Middleweight World Champion.
“To win the world title on home soil would be absolutely massive. I think winning a world title everywhere in the world is something that every athlete aspires to, but having the opportunity to do something like that on home soil is even more amazing. I’m really excited about the opportunity I have, and it will be massive once I accomplish it,” Hanekom said to LowkickMMA.
South African sport is currently on a high. The national rugby team recently won the game’s ultimate prize at the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. For a country that has had more than its fair share of turmoil, the team’s success sent a much-needed wave of positivity throughout the nation.
Hanekom, inspired by his country’s triumph in Japan,will now look to add another title to the nation’s trophy cabinet. South Africa has never struggled with producing elite athletes, and it has seemed an inevitability that the African republic would eventually begin making its presence felt throughout the MMA world.
BRAVE 31 will be the second card BRAVE CF has staged in South Africa. The promotion held BRAVE 19 in Sun City last December, but this weekend’s main event should ensure an even more enthusiastic crowd.
“It’s a great show, with massive match-ups. Obviously, having a title headlining brings a different aspect to it and interest, “Hanekom said.
“The MMA scene in South Africa is booming, it’s one of the fastest-growing sports in the country, and it’s one of the most viewed sports right now. People are definitely aware of MMA within South Africa, and having a local show will be eye-opening to a lot of people.”
Hanekom made his promotional debut in 2018 at BRAVE 10, going up against the rampaging Ikram Aliskerov. After an extremely close contest, Aliskerov emerged the winner via split decision.
It was a contestable result which could easily have gone Hanekom’s way. Still, the loss, the first and only defeat of his career, was seen by Hanekom as a learning experience. After bouncing back with two impressive wins at BRAVE 13 and 16, “Superman” found himself booked for a title bout.
Opposite Hanekom on Saturday night, will be the hulking figure of Daniel Souza. The Brazilian made his BRAVE debut in August at BRAVE 25. Souza scored a brutal opening round KO victory over compatriot Bruno Assis, and the victory put him in line for a chance at the vacant middleweight title.
While Hanekom acknowledges Souza as a “worthy contender”, he believes the Brazilian lacks a high fight IQ; tending to rely on strength and power to defeat opponents as opposed to technique and strategy.
“My coach and I, my team, we have analyzed and broken down his tapes, his training, so we know exactly his strengths and his weaknesses.
“He relies on certain aspects of his game, and certain things that he’s not going to be able to implement against me. A lot of people keep going on about his power, being such a strong and powerful guy, a KO artist, but as far as I know he doesn’t have that many knockouts and he’s been knocked out before so those are things we’re very aware of as a team and me as a fighter. “
This will be the first time that Hanekom has competed in almost a year. How the added pressure of fighting in front of friends and family plays out, we will know come Saturday. A place in the history books awaits , all Hanekom needs to do is reach out and claim it.