Nigeria’s Obanla Joy Ebanda was crowned MMA champion last week in the 2023 African Games, in the women’s featherweight division (- 65,8 Kg /145 lbs), as the sport made its Olympic debut on the platform.

Resident of Akure, Ondo State, the 28-year-old works by day as a farmer. Originating from Yaoundé, Cameroon, she migrated eight years ago to join her father in Nigeria, where she is now making her new nation proud!

With an MMA record of 3-0 at amateur and 1-0 at pro, Obanla has a background in boxing and kickboxing, as well as Sanshou Wushu KungFu, in which she holds a blackbelt. She was inspired to take up MMA from watching the professional leagues but before that, she grew up watching WWE: “So from there I started having passion for martial arts”.

There are challenges to training in MMA in Nigeria, as the champion narrates: “MMA is popular in my country because there are different professional and amateur competitions and shows that take place. It is easy and also not easy to access training in the sense that you have to travel a long distance, so it helps to train also in other combat sports to get more practice”.

Obanla also has other responsibilities to contend with, in terms of work and making ends meet: “I train in the morning then go to work after, so it is not really easy, but you have to work to survive. One of my biggest challenges in training for the 2023 African Championships was not having enough time for training.”

But rising above this, Obanla’s goal is crystal clear – to first of all become world champion and then, undefeated champion of the world.  

Competing in the African Games has motivated her further and enriched her experience: “I learnt to always listen to the rules and regulations and keep them in mind when fighting; to keep making your point; and to always try harder in your training so you are prepared for anything coming your way.”

But more than that, the feeling of winning a gold medal for Nigeria on an Olympic platform was exhilarating: “I feel so happy and proud to have won gold for my country, family, coaches, myself and all those in my midst.”

Inevitably, the work doesn’t stop there, and true to a champion’s mindset, when Obanla Joy Ebanda talks about what’s next, she says: “Training harder. And always being fit and ready for any upcoming competition, as well as looking out for opportunities.”

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