A South African mixed martial arts fighter plans to open a gym that specializes in training victims of gender-based violence.
Nkazimulo Zulu, a longtime Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) competitor with a 13-5-0 record, wants women and children to live without fear of domestic abuse, rape, or kidnappings, and believes training them to defend themselves would be a step in the right direction.
“When myself and my partner first had the conversation, I thought of gender-based violence. I dislike reading or hearing about violence against children and women. I believe I have skills to share – skills which I learned during the many years of my career,” Zulu said in a recent interview with Springs Advertiser. “I want to help each individual to protect themselves from sick individuals that think they can do as they please. Our gym is based on self-defence classes, incorporated with fitness and wellness.”
Gender-based violence occurs as a result of normative role expectations and unequal power relationships between genders in a society. GBV can be physical, sexual, emotional, financial or structural, and can be perpetrated by intimate partners, acquaintances, strangers and institutions. Most acts of interpersonal gender-based violence are committed by men against women, and the man perpetrating the violence is often known by the woman, such as a partner or family member.
South Africa has reportedly high rates of GBV, particularly sexual violence committed by intimate partners. There is also a high prevalence of gang rape.
It is worth noting that various MMA fighters have previously been accused or convicted of various forms of gender-based violence. Last year saw three high-profile domestic violence arrests, including UFC Hall of Famer Chuck Liddell who was arrested on a domestic violence charge involving his wife. Former UFC light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones was arrested in Las Vegas for alleged abuse against his partner with their kids present. Previous cases included the likes of former UFC champ Conor McGregor, whom the New York Times reported was under investigation for his second sexual assault in 2019, as well as Tito Ortiz, Greg Hardy and Mike Perry.
The 33-year-old Zulu hopes to open his gym in the coming months while also training for his next EFC fight.
“My dream is to restore safety in our country,” said Zulu. “It’s a big statement but what is a better tomorrow if it is not promised to be a good, one without fear.”