Power hungry for MMA glory

Paulwethu Power Namba, right, in action against Imke-Marischca Kuikstra during her EFC debut in April last year. The fight may not have gone her way but she feels it was a step in the right direction in promoting the sport to women.

Cage warrior Paulwethu “Paul” Namba heeded a spiritual calling that saw her graduating as a traditional healer earlier this year.

Power, 30, hopes overcoming the spiritual battle will help her show her true potential in combat sport. She is a kickboxer who made her EFC debut against Imke-Marischca Kuikstra at EFC78 in 2019 and went on to take on Christine Wolmarans at EFC81.

Both those bouts didn’t go according to plan as she was defeated, however, her journey into the world of mixed martial arts (MMA) could not have been scripted any better.

A fighter at heart, Power, from Durbanville, grew up sparring with boys but knew nothing about trained fighting.

She only learnt about MMA when she entered the gym for the first time in 2016 because she was battling asthma and needed to stay active.

Her Pro Fitness coach, Neville Addinall, saw something she had not realised about herself: that she was a born fighter who needed to showcase her abilities in a professional environment.

It only took five months for her to take part in her first amateur fight.

The sport of MMA is still relatively new in the country, with few women taking part, so Power quickly climbed her way to the professional setup.

“I made it as a pro in less than two years after taking up the sport and I knew nothing about trained fighting before then.

“I only knew street fighting; there were no tactics used outside the ring so when I stepped in for the first time I was learning as I went along.

“I still learn as I go even now because now I’m in an environment where I have to fight and beat someone I don’t even have beef with, so it’s a lot to channel.

“There are still times when I have to ask my coach if I’m allowed to do certain things but the fact that MMA has so few rules makes it easy for me.”

Power is not only a traditional healer but also a basic life support paramedic, which means she can knock you out and help bring you back to reality.

Part of what she had to accept when she undertook her spiritual journey was finding balance between being a healer and a fighter.

She believes something had been holding her back from fully accepting the competitive side of fighting.

“I feel I’m at the stage of my life where it’s easy to find that balance and know that when I’m in the octagon it’s strictly competition and nothing personal.

“Even though I have to go into beast mode on you and cut your face, I’m at peace knowing this journey is strictly for entertainment purposes,” she said.

More than wanting to turn around her 0-2 professional record, Power wishes she can be seen as a good example of women taking charge of their destiny and paving their own way in male-dominated sports.

“I don’t know a lot of women in this sport, so if I can be there and be as competitive as I can with the few women that we have, hopefully that encourages a lot of women to go like, ‘Hey, I can do this thing’.

“The environment can be less motivating for women as they have to deal with lots of sexism and patriarchy but these are the spaces we should be taking.

“Even without the competitive part of the sport I would love to be a good example to more women taking charge of the fight scene.

“I am not to be messed with, the guys in the gym know I always go harder when I spar with them than when I go against a female so if that can rub off on many women, even if they are not willing to be competitive, it would give me a sense of fulfilment.”

Power is a staunch fan of boxing icon Floyd Mayweather and female fighter Holly Holm who shocked the MMA world when she knocked out Ronda Rousey, one of the biggest names in the sport who was considered the best female MMA fighter at the time.

Power says the lockdown has slowed down her training routine but she doesn’t feel she will lose a lot as fighting is in her genes.