K1 fighter all smiles as he returns to his ‘other home’

Karl Bergemann

Former Constantiaberg Bulletin sports reporter Karl Bergemann gave his orbicularis oculi and levator labii superioris muscles a huge workout the day he returned to gym.

No, he was not practising a “special” strengthening technique to avoid KOs.

This workout was done before he even stepped into the Thailholics gym in Cape Town.

“It’s great having the gym open again. After about four months away, I had a huge grin on my face that I couldn’t wipe off,” says the K1 athlete.

The coronavirus pandemic saw the shutdown of many institutions and gyms were no exception.

It was (and still is) a tough time for so many people – those who lost loved ones, and the millions of people who have struggled financially and mentally at the hands of this pandemic.

With government easing up some of the restrictions – Karl is a grateful man, on so many levels.

The decorated Muay Thai and Kickboxing athlete has travelled the world – from Mzansi to Guaruja, Brazil, to Chiang Mai, Thailand, to Hamburg, Germany, and more.

And still, the joy of walking into Thailholics was something else for him. “That place is my other home, it’s like visiting family you haven’t seen in a while, it just feels welcoming, like it’s where you belong,” says the current SAKA (South African Kickboxing Association) pro cruiserweight champion and former top-10 ranked K1 fighter in the world.

“Making sure that health regulations are administered, completing a screening test, sanitising regularly and so forth … It’s quite an interesting situation, but I kind of enjoy compartmentalising things like that and having my own little space where I can ‘get in the zone’, as they say,” says Karl.

While the gyms were closed, Karl made sure he did what he could to stay ready.

“I have a decent workout setup at home and took part in a few challenges like a 70km ultra marathon. I have also been busy with online classes,” says the fighter, coach and academic who landed a three-year bursary to complete his PhD in History (at Stellenbosch University) under the Biography of an Uncharted People project – a collaboration between the Economics and History departments.

Karl’s readiness and mental preparation bode well considering the potential restart of Fight Nights.

“My last fight was for Pretoria-based kickboxing event, SFL, last year. I was asked tentatively, before Covid-19 hit, if I would take a fight in Germany again, for Get In The Ring, against touted K-1 (kickboxing) fighter Enrico Rogge, to which I answered yes,” says Karl, who headlined Get In The Ring against intercontinental champion, Florian Kroeger not too long back.

“Of course I love the local promotions and came up on them, especially PFC Promotions (Professional Fighting Championship) and the now defunct CFL (Cape Fight League), so if they had a fight for me, that would now be the first port of call.”

Karl has a big space in his heart for the South African martial arts climate, and he only wants the best for all involved.

With that said, he hopes that the new Fight to Fame global competition to compete to become belt-holding Fight to Fame Champions that soon kicks off in South Africa has the athletes’ best interest at heart.

“Anyone who is looking to grow the sport, I applaud. Hopefully they can put the athletes first, though, as without them, any dreams they have will fall flat, as has been seen with any promotion, reality shows, gyms, etc, that haven’t made sure that athlete management is the number one priority.

“South Africa has a lot of potential – the first thing is to generate interest at youth level, more gyms, more competition, more sponsorship, the list goes on.”