clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Don Madge wants to do for South African MMA what Conor McGregor did for Ireland

UFC Fight Night: Edwards v Madge
Don Madge lands a head kick on Te Edwards at UFC Moncton on Oct. 27, 2018
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Don Madge isn’t the first fighter to come out of South Africa but he might be the most prominent after making a splashy UFC debut last year.

He took on Te Edwards—a highly touted prospect discovered on Dana White’s Contender Series—at UFC Moncton and ultimately scored a highlight-reel head kick, which led to a second-round KO. The win immediately put Madge on the map as a fighter to watch for the future and he’s hoping some of the attention he’s received will spill over to the rest of the athletes competing in his home country.

“MMA in South Africa, it’s still young but we’ve got our own organization—the EFC (Extreme Fighting Championship)—which is where I came up. I was a two-time champion before I got signed to the UFC. It’s growing,” Madge explained when speaking to MMA Fighting ahead of his return at UFC 242.

“We’ve got a lot of talented fighters. We’ve got a lot of guys coming down from central Africa to join our and train with my coach, Richie Quan.”

Following his debut win, Madge hit the interview circuit to talk about his jaw-dropping knockout and one question that he fielded numerous times was regarding his future training plans now that he made it into the UFC.

The idea was that South Africa may not be able to provide Madge with the kind of high-level training required to consistently compete with the best fighters in the world. It’s commonplace in mixed martial arts for fighters to flock to well-established gymd led by notable coaches to help them grow and evolve after joining the UFC roster.

For Madge, that was never even remotely an option.

“It’s not just loyalty. I’ve traveled to a lot of places to train. I’ve traveled to the United Kingdom, I’ve trained in the States, I’ve trained in Asia, I’ve trained all over. I’ve trained with a lot of different coaches, a lot of well-respected guys and as far as I can say, Richie can give me every single thing they can give me,” Madge explained. “So I trust him. When I came to Richie, I was in a bit of a slump. I had three sh—ty losses because I was training myself. I was just doing my own thing. I went to him and ever since then I’ve been on a tear.

“I keep developing every day as a mixed martial artist. I really try and voice my opinion on that to let people know that we’ve got a mastermind here. I don’t need to leave my country to go anywhere else as long as he’s here. He’s the guy who I feel has brought out the best in me.”

According to Madge, the biggest problem with South African MMA is just not enough eyeballs on the fighters training and coming out of the country. He promises there are plenty of athletes who would be capable of competing in the UFC but it’s just not easy to get that kind of exposure when living half a world away from more established fight hubs like the United States or Brazil.

That’s what he’s hoping to change by competing in the UFC and still calling South Africa his full-time home.

“Getting the opportunities, that’s the hardest part. My journey to the UFC was not an easy one at all,” Madge said. “I’m sure most guys aren’t but if you’re living in Las Vegas it’s a lot easier to get signed to the UFC than if you’re in Johannesburg, South Africa.

“In terms of that, we’re flying under the radar but I’m hoping to change that with my performances and try to bring more light to South African MMA.”

The way Madge sees it, he hopes to do for South Africa what Conor McGregor did for Ireland or Michael Bisping did for England in terms of bringing a brighter spotlight to their home countries by competing in highly publicized fights in the UFC.

Obviously both Ireland and England had established mixed martial arts programs before McGregor and Bisping came along but they helped bring a worldwide awareness by competing on a platform as large as the UFC.

“That’s exactly what I’m trying to do,” Madge said when asked about McGregor and Bisping’s influences in the sport. “I don’t know who else had a debut like mine. Maybe Anderson Silva? I’ve never seen someone have a UFC debut, go out there and starch someone who was highly touted, I was a +500 underdog.

“I’m here to prove a point. I’m here to show everyone there’s a young lion coming up the rankings and I’m going to show that I’m a true South African. I live and I breathe everything in Africa. I’m coming out and I’m doing everything to get that title.”

The next step for Madge will be his fight against Fares Ziam at UFC 242 and after making such a memorable debut, he wants to follow that up with another stellar performance this weekend.

“I’m going to keep trying to improve and make bigger statements, bolder statements,” Madge stated. “I really want to show that I’m the real deal. I’m not going to come here and be a one trick pony and bounce.

“I’m here to show that I’m going to perform every single time.”