South Africa’s Vuyisile Colossa did not have to look far for inspiration. | Photo Courtesy: One FC
Vuyisile Colossa experienced far-ranging emotions at One FC 13 “Moment of Truth” on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Manila, Philippines. He not only fought and defeated the best-known opponent of his career -- Ultimate Fighting Championship and Strikeforce veteran Caros Fodor -- but also learned of the death former South Africa President Nelson Mandela just a few hours before he set foot inside the cage.
Colossa was born in a township in Free State Province in 1981 during the height of apartheid, when segregation was institutional in South Africa and Mandela was incarcerated at the notorious Robben Island prison, serving a life sentence for sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. That Colossa’s family and friends back home are no longer subjected to the same regimental prejudice owes much to the efforts of Mandela. The 31-year-old lightweight was stunned by news of the former president’s death.
“First thing, I looked at my phone the morning of Dec. 6, and I find out about Nelson Mandela’s death,” Colossa told Sherdog.com. “It affected me, particularly later during the day when the nerves before the fight started to kick in.”
Instead of the Kwaito music Colossa normally uses for his entrance, he walked to the One Fighting Championship cage to the sound of the South African national anthem. He calls it a spur-of-the-moment decision.
“Actually, when I got to the event venue, I had already my R.I.P. Mandela T-shirt done,” Colossa said. “Right after the ring check about 5:30 p.m., [One Fighting Championship CEO] Victor Cui approached me about the change of music, and I told him it was a great way to pay tribute to my comrade.”
Apartheid in South Africa ended with the 1994 elections, as the African National Congress swept to power and Mandela was awarded the presidency. However, Colossa still has vivid memories of growing up in a country where the color of his skin effectively rendered him a second-class citizen.
“Apartheid affected me like many other discriminated black South Africans who didn’t have freedom,” he said. “When I started competing in amateur kickboxing competitions, I would lose fights if I don’t KO my opponents because the white guy I was fighting had a higher belt than me, and it won’t look good for his students if he loses, with me not being one of their people.”
Mandela’s death was not the only source of motivation for Colossa at “Moment of Truth.” In Fodor, he was taking on a fighter who had once forged a reputation as one of the best lightweights on the Strikeforce roster, only to be cut from the UFC after one split decision loss. Some even went as far as to describe the bout as a mismatch, suggesting that Fodor, who trains under Matt Hume at AMC Pankration in Kirkland, Wash., would be far too experienced and well-rounded for an opponent who brought a striking-centric attack to the table.
That school of thought did not survive the first round, as Colossa consistently stuffed Fodor’s takedowns and escaped almost instantly whenever he found himself in an adverse position on the ground. He eventually won a unanimous decision. Having captured numerous titles in kickboxing and muay Thai, he has established himself as one of the best strikers in the business, but Colossa claims to be dedicating himself to MMA.
“I am getting more comfortable fighting in the MMA-style, standup or ground game; the puzzle is coming together,” he said. “Through all the hard work and dedication, my fighting spirit has evolved as well.”
An aggressive striking game has made Colossa a fan favorite, but his pre-fight tribute to Mandela earned him the support of the neutrals at One FC 13. Colossa’s key to victory was his clinch game, particularly in the final round, where he pressed Fodor against the cage and brutalized him with knees and elbows. The American did well to stay on his feet but was powerless to prevent his foe from continuously scoring with close-range strikes.
It was all part of the game plan, according to “The Cheetah.”
“I watched his past few fights. I saw that he likes to come in close for dirty boxing, so the only way to beat that was to clinch and control the side fight with knees and elbows,” Colossa said. “Even though he took a lot of knees and elbows, he wouldn’t go down. He was a strong competitor.”
A 7-4 record might not seem all that inspiring, but Colossa has much more experience than his resume suggests, having spent time inside the cage with some of the top fighters in Asia. Besides a submission loss to current King of the Cage junior welterweight champion Lowen Tynanes, he has also dropped decisions to Universal Reality Combat championship titleholder Eduard Folayang and Road Fighting Championship titlist Yui Chul Nam (twice).
“Experience was all I wanted at first,” he said, “and I have learned a lot since and am still learning each fight.”
Back to back wins over Fodor and former One FC champion Kotetsu Boku have established Colossa as one of the leading contenders in the Singapore-based organization’s 155-pound division. Shinya Aoki currently occupies the One FC lightweight throne, but the Japanese submission specialist recently made his 145-pound debut. It remains uncertain whether or not Aoki will ever defend his championship.
However, Colossa has grown desperate for a shot at the man who has dominated the lightweight landscape in Asia for much of the past decade and claims he would be willing to move down in weight to facilitate a fight with Aoki.
“Aoki’s a legend in MMA, but legends have fallen,” Colossa said. “I want a shot at the title and I have all the confidence that I will win the fight and be crowned the new champion, but I am also willing to take him on at 67 kilograms. It’s up to him what weight class he wants to fight me at.”