You know Zack Mwekassa, even if you don’t realize it at first. He burst upon the scene as the guy who obliterated Pat Barry and ruined MMA’s favorite goofball’s return to kickboxing. All in his first kickboxing match. Escaping the Congo, a home that was literally destroyed by a volcano and surviving a poisonous snake bite have been able to transofrm Mwekassa into a sort of superhero that has absorbed all of the negative energy around his upbringing into his two formidable fists. A pro boxer by trade, Mwekassa has fifteen wins, fourteen by knockout. Now, at Glory 18, he looks to further cement his his foothold into a sport he’s only recently infiltrated.
This is by far one of the most fascinating interviews we’ve conducted on MiddleEasy, so we suggest you follow Zack as he takes on Brian Collete at Glory 18 in Oklahoma tomorrow night on Spike.
Do you think knocking out Pat Barry put you on the map so to speak?
Absolutely, absolutely. Knocking out Pat Barry is really one of the most amazing things to happen in my fighting career. It happened at the right time. I still have a lot of respect for Pat Barry and every fighter in this sport and I thank him for the opportunity to fight him and then him pouring some of his fame onto me, absolutely I’m grateful. So yes, knocking out Pat Barry has been the key to all the doors.
Some people said you upset Barry. You were a virtual unknown at the time, do you think it was an upset?
Again, information. We unfortunately live in a world where some people tend to undermine fighters they’ve never seen on the US TV. So if you’ve never been on American TV, people tend to underestimate you. So that’s what you’re seeing more and more, that there are other people out there across the world that are good fighters even if you haven’t seen them or heard of them. I’m very glad to have the opportunity to be seen. That’s why the word is in the dictionary, so some people can upset some other people.
Why combat sports? Why not computer engineering which you’ve studied for years? Why did you feel that this was your path?
Because, going back to when I left my country going to South Africa, things were not easy. I knew nobody there. I had no family nothing. I basically was by myself. So I did some jobs to make some money, make a living. Of course I didn’t want to get involved with the bad side of the world. I found negligible jobs. Watching other people’s cars and stuff so I could get through the day. But I got involved with the combat sports because I was told I could make some money. I didn’t want to be professional. My whole goal throughout my professional career was just to change my life, just to make the pay a little better. I had to fight because getting into university was difficult, but then through combat sports I was able to get money to get a better education. I’m a computer networking engineer. I used the boxing money to educate myself, to better myself. I don’t think there are limits. I feel like you can do anything you set your mind to whether it be mentally, physically or anything. I don’t just want to be a fighter, I want to be someone intelligent, someone important. I think I’ve done a tremendous job in this sport in inspiring young people in my country in the fact that you can be an intelligent person and a sportsman. You can be a fighter and be good to society. You can be a boxer and an engineer, a boxer and a lawyer. You can kickbox and do anything, there’s no limit. You set your own limit.
Did you grow up fighting? I know many had that ingrained in them, scrapping in the schoolyards or getting in bar fights. Your life was obviously very tumultuous, so how did your fighting origin come about?
I’m one of eight. I come from a big family. I was the last born in my family, and being the last born in a family of eight it’s sometimes hard. I was often pushed and pulled around. I remember my older brother embarrassing me when I was eight-years-old. I remember having my friend over to watch a movie and my brother just came in and switched the channel. I couldn’t handle it anymore. I cried and went to my dad, asking if he saw what he did, embarrassing me in front of my friend. How could he embarrass me like that, you know? And my dad asked, “why don’t you be normal kids? Play football, go join a boxing club or something.” He didn’t really realize what he said. I immediately went out to find and join a boxing club. The idea wasn’t to go out and become a professional fighter or maybe fight my brother, the idea is that if I became a professional boxer he would stay away from me or maybe not do the embarrassing things to me any longer. And yeah, about a year after he stopped. He wouldn’t push or pull me around when we had issues. When we had issues he would say that just because I was a boxer he couldn’t push and pull me around like he used to. That’s basically how it started. I fell in love with the sport I guess, and it was dying out. It was dying out in Johannesburg where I had no money, no nothing. I walked into one of the most prominent kickboxing clubs, where Mike Bernardo trained and others in K-1 at the time. So I walked into the gym and they were very nice and welcomed me and said I was a champion. I said, that no, I wasn’t a champion and they said, “yes you are. You just need to get your mind right and you can do something.” They understood I had no money, but invited me regularly and showed me the passion in the sport. I trained with some big guys that beat me up every day. But I grew up and I got stronger, more mature I was faster and stronger each day than the day before. But unfortunately there wasn’t any kickboxing opportunities so I went for boxing because there were much more boxing fights and I went up in the rankings, won the title and was the African champion. Now I’m finally with Glory to make the kickboxing championship happen. Yeah.
You’re fighting your whole life figuratively and literally, so do you think you were destined to be a fighter or it’s just a means to an end?
I think people create destiny. That’s my hope, I could be right, I could be wrong, but to me it’s a matter of choice. You choose your destiny. You always have a choice. I know I wasn’t given many choices after the war in my country, but I had the choice. You either sell drugs or go join a boxing club and maybe make a life out of it. So yeah, I had the choice and made it. In life you don’t get what you deserve, but you get what you are. I don’t ever want to be average. What is it to be average? Why do you want to live the same life? I always wanted to get out of the normal and do a different thing and to live my own way. So yeah, I guess I put in the work and I still have a long ways to go.
And to say that, your normal and average after what you’ve been through is not the normal of someone in another country.
You’ve risen above and then risen above while continuing to rise. It’s admirable.
In your pre fight interview for Glory 18, there’s a little girl that faceplants in the background of your interview. That made the interview for us. Were you aware that you knock people out with your sheer presence?
A girl fell?
Yeah, if you watch your interview, at a minute thirty five in, a little girl faceplants. It’s because of your aura.
Hahahaha! Well I’m glad and honored that I can touch people. I’m honored. But seriously if I can inspire anyone from Europe to the United States I’m thrilled, because a lot of youngsters in my country are looking up to me and know my story. They know that if you put your mind to it, you can do anything. I’m just honored that this is happening at this time and God is giving me the opportunity to be out here and reaching the world to let them know that it can happen with bravery and courage.
Not to get too hard ahead of ourselves here, but would you be interested in MMA. Perhaps Bellator?
Why not? Why not! Why not? Everything is set and good. All the better.
Do you have any grappling background?
Well, haha. See people don’t know a lot about me. I have a black belt in judo. Yes, I did wrestling in high school. Why not?