Since the extinguishing of the Olympic flame in Accra, the Nigerian press has lamented that MMA was a but demonstration event. For with full inclusion, the 11 medals accrued by Nigeria’s MMA team could have counted towards its country’s official tally, with which it placed second only to Egypt.

Daniel Emeka (Eze Daniel Emeke) was among those who won gold for Nigeria competing in MMA at the 2023 African Games in the men’s middleweight category (83,9 Kg / 185 lbs).

Haiing from Ondo, Nigeria’s southwesterly “Sunshine State”, the 29-year-old holds an MMA record of 14-1 at amateur and 7-3 at pro. He is a three-time National Gold Medallist in kickboxing at Nigeria’s National Sports Festival and ten-time National Kickboxing Champion. The platform that brought him to MMA was Kamura’s Usman’s domestically based promotion, African Knockout (AKO).

Asked how popular MMA is in his country and how easy is it to access training, he says that the sport is “not very popular and it is very difficult to access good training. Currently, I have no regular coach, I often train myself and I face financial challenges.”

Further to that, the champion works and has a family to support, finding it “difficult to balance with training. I also train young upcoming athletes in my area.”

Nicknamed “Big Shark”, Emeke’s ultimate goal in MMA is “to become the world champion”. This is what fires him, besides motivating upcoming youths from his country.

The African games was not the gold medallist’s first exposure to international competition: He has been competing against international competitors since 2019.

But speaking of how it felt to win a gold medal for his country on an Olympic platform, the Big Shark related: “I felt so amazed and excited to have won a gold medal for Nigeria because it was is my first time winning for my country and I can use this to motivate other upcoming fighters that they can also do it. I also trained Olanike Sodiq, who also won a gold medal at the Games.”

So, what’s next for the champion?  “What is next for me to is get a good promoter to fight outside of Nigeria and get me into the UFC.”

Follow Daniel Bigshark Emeka on Facebook or @danielbigshark on Instagram