Zack Mwekassa calls his win over Pat Barry at Glory 16 a “life-changing experience.” | Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
Zack Mwekassa (11-1, 10 KO's) became an overnight sensation in the kickboxing world when he stopped UFC veteran Pat “HD” Barry in the first round of their contest at Glory 16 “Denver.”
It was both men’s debut for the premier kickboxing league and Barry, the big name, was expected to score a big finish. Instead, it was Mwekassa who stole some of his shine by scoring a KO which became, in his words, “a life-changing experience.”
The fight was televised on a national network in Mwekassa’s native Congo. People turned out in droves to welcome him when he came back to his homeland.
“My return to Congo was amazing. It was majestic -- when we landed there was about 5,000 people waiting for me outside the airport. There was a convertible car, and I stood up in the back as we drove through the crowd. People were doing traditional chants and dances, waving flags,” he said.
“It was amazing. They put me in the fanciest hotel in the capital. It just made everything worth it: all the getting up to run at 4 a.m., all the pain, all the suffering. I left Congo when I was young, because of the war, and to return in that fashion was just incredible. I will never forget it -- a life-changing experience,” he continued. “I will always be grateful to Pat Barry for giving me the fight and letting some of his fame pour onto me. He is still a tremendous fighter who has achieved so much.”
Mwekassa’s triumphant return to Congo wasn’t entirely smooth though. He found himself having to spend a lot of time convincing people that the fight had not, in fact, made him instantly wealthy.
“Yeah, people thought I became an instant millionaire. ‘Come on, you just beat an American, where is the money?’” he said, laughing. “But I went back to Congo, did some social work, did some nice things, went to see the kids, the HIV orphans. I gave them some food and paid for their breakfast vouchers for six months. We did some great work.”
Tonight, Mwekassa will be one of four men taking part in the Glory 18 light heavyweight contender tournament. The event takes place at the Grand Casino Hotel Resort in Shawnee, Okla.; Mwekassa faces Virginia native Brian ‘The Lion' Collette (21-2, 18 KO’s) in the first of the evening’s semifinals.
Where Mwekassa’s background lies in professional boxing, Collette’s lies in muay Thai and taekwondo. As a kickboxer he is more rounded than Mwekassa and has a far better kicking game, but he doesn’t have anywhere near the same punching power.
“I’ve got nothing to say about Brian Collette. I’ve never seen him fight or anything. We don’t have television in Africa,” Mwekassa deadpanned when asked about his opponent.
Then he cracked up.
“Haha I’m joking! Of course we have television… but I honestly don’t know anything about Brian Collette, only that I am going to meet him in the ring. I have read some interviews though, and I don’t like the way he speaks, the approach he takes,” Mwekassa said.
The winner of tonight’s tournament earns ‘The Contender’ status and will go forward to challenge world champion Gokhan Saki for his title belt. Mwekassa, who fled Congo for South Africa after rebel militia threatened to kill him in the civil war days, say that neither Saki nor Collette nor any other fighter he may be asked to face holds any fear for him.
“Let me say this: I come from the Congo, where there has been war and bloodshed, eight million dead, 400,000 women raped since the war started… I have survived bullets, volcanic eruptions and snakebites -- do you really think I am going to be worried about meeting a human being in a boxing ring?”
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