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Homegrown MMA champ

A professional mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter from Somerset West has achieved worldwide recognition and continues to pursue an insatiable desire to be among the best of the best.

Wade “El Torito” Kerspuy, originally from Helderzicht, is a physiotherapist by day and respected MMA fighter after hours. Speaking to DistrictMail this week, the athlete describes himself as just a Somerset West boy schooled at Somerset West Methodist Primary School, who matriculated from Gordon High School before pursuing tertiary studies at the University of the Western Cape.

As a youngster he took a keen interest in soccer, cricket and golf, but always thought he would one day make it big as a volleyball player. Life, however, had other plans for him.

“I was in Johannesburg watching a Brazilian jujitsu match at a gym, and guys were rolling around trying to choke each other. So I took the free class and fell in love with jujitsu,” he recalled.

“Some professional fighters would do the class as well, and spending time with them opened my eyes to the sport of MMA. I initially thought it was a little silly to get in a cage and knock one another out, but that changed as I got more involved in the sport.”

The 31-year-old spoke highly of his coach Matthew Leisching, describing him as “one of the best striking coaches in the country, with a brilliant IQ for fighting and developing fighters”. He also praised Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) fighter and his partner at his own gym Don Madge, whom Kerspuy looks up to as a role-model, and his Brazilian jujitsu coach Brandon Hoffman as someone who relates to him and helps him focus.

Madge is someone he looks up to for his everyday grinding, high work ethic, love for the sport and his several accomplishments in the sport.

After winning a number of competitions in jujitsu, Kerspuy learnt some striking moves and fought his first MMA fight in 2016. A Chilean coach gave him the name “El Torito”, which is Spanish for “little bull”.

“It takes a lot of time and dedication as I have a full-time job,” said Kerspuy. “Finding the time for training was a challenge, as well as getting into a routine that works. I wake up early every day and I’m in the gym six days a week. I love competitions, where I can display my skills and show the world all the hard work I quietly go about every day.”

He recalled the loads of adrenalin at his first amateur fight, where he felt “crazily nervous” and had serious doubts whether he was capable of executing what he had learnt.

“It’s definitely changed now; I’m a much calmer fighter. I prepare and put in the work before the fight, which helps my confidence and eases my nerves.”

As an amateur he would go on to win gold at 2017 IMF African Open, climbing to third place on the world IMF amateur rankings at the time. As a professional athlete he’s also notched up some notable wins, particularly last year when he was also nominated for the award for Submission of the Year.

These days Kerspuy lives in Lakeside in the Southern Suburbs, as it’s closer to work. He describes wife Cara-Ann as “an amazing woman and my biggest fan. I definitely wouldn’t be able to do this without her”.

He said recent media attention definitely motivates him to be noticed for all the hard work he puts in to better himself as a fighter. “I don’t do it for the fame but because I love the sport. It is very dependent on sponsorship, because of all the related expenses. Hopefully all the media exposure will attract sponsors to join me on this journey.”

El Torito’s ultimate goal is to be a champion and perhaps leave a legacy, but mostly he wants to do it as best he can.

Asked to choose between Irish fighter Connor McGregor or Russian beast Khabib Nurmagomedov, he’s quick to opt for the latter, “just for his fighting style, dominance, record and strength”.

Kerspuy urged those interested in taking up MMA fighting to join a gym, but warned it takes hard work over a long period of time – and the rest will follow with the effort put in.

He thanked all those who’ve accompanied him on this journey: “I’ve grown, not only as a fighter, but as a human being. Jujitsu has really changed my life and outlook on things, and I’m forever grateful to those who’ve been a part of it.”

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