CAPE TOWN – As a fighter, Conrad Seabi may well be remembered as one the bad boys of the South African mixed martial arts world.
When it comes to some of his past fights, there are a couple of negative connotations in tow with “Cagewise” often copping fans’ frustration.
What adds to the allure of his bad boy persona is the fact that Conrad really turns it up when it’s time to sell a fight under the bright lights and before the TV cameras, all in the name of the fight game.
So whenever Conrad slipped up or missed weight, there was never a shortage of fuel for the Extreme Fighting Championship fans.
When speaking to Independent Media however, Conrad has never shied away from admitting his faults and taking responsibility for his own mistakes. He even looks back on fights that never panned out and comprehends why his opponent would vent, just like he would when facing the same situation.
This may come as a pleasant surprise to some, taking into consideration the brash character that is Cage Wise.
But what’s even more admirable and surprising is the manner in which the fighter/coach transforms when he speaks about his new journey, leading the Brothers In Arms combat gym.
Conrad has been in a transition period the last couple of years, moving from fighting to coaching at his Pretoria-based gym.
After leaving Morne Visser’s CIT Institute, Conrad - with the help of some associates - started Brothers In Arms, a place that he could call his own, providing athletes from all backgrounds with an opportunity to develop their potential.
“As a young black coach, coming from where I came from, finally my dream has come true,” says the 42-year-old Conrad who grew up in Mamelodi.
“I don’t expect to have the biggest building or best sponsors in the game, I am just blessed to have BIA and its athletes.
“It's easy for me to grow the team because I know what it feels like to be inside that cage. I know what it feels like to go through the journey of fighting, to go through camps. I know the pain,” says Conrad who took a moment to thank CIT head coach Morne for the impact he has had on his life and career.
Cage Wise has some gifted athletes in his stable with the likes of top-ranked welterweight and lightweight, Anicet Kanyeba (13-10) as well as up-and-comers Cole Henning (3-1 and 1 no contest) and hot middleweight prospect Ziko Makengele (2-0).
On Saturday, at EFC 88, Conrad’s biggest warrior (literally) - DRC’s Matunga Djikasa (4-2) - will go to war against South Africa’s Thabani Mndebela (4-1) for the vacant EFC heavyweight title after American Jared Vanderaa (12-5) relinquished his belt to pursue a career in the deep waters of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Despite the shallow EFC heavyweight pool that is slowly being rebuilt, both Matunga and Thabani are deserving of their shot at the title with the latter riding a three-fight winning streak, while Matunga recently knocked out Ricky Misholas (7-9) in devastating fashion at EFC 86.
“Thabani is a very good guy, a man with a good attitude and he's also a good fighter. But unfortunately he does not stand a chance against Djikasa,” says coach Conrad.
“Djikasa’s mindset has changed. That guy is a destroyer, on another level, and he will take this belt.
If this fight goes past the first round, I will take my hat off to Thabani.”
As for returning to the hexagon again, Conrad says the end is in sight, but not just yet.
“Coaching all these hungry talented youngsters makes it easy for me to hang up the gloves, but I won't hang them up just yet. Maybe one more fight at the end of this year then I can shift my focus full time to coaching. But first I need to finish like a real man, either a win or a loss in that cage,” adds Conrad who last beat Robert Swanepoel at EFC 83 via TKO in the first round.
You can catch all the EFC 88 main card action on SuperSport, SABC Openview, EFCWORLDWIDE.TV (pay-per-view) and a host of African channels this Saturday starting at 5pm. The prelims (3pm) are available on pay-per-view (included in the monthly membership which also offers access to the full fight library).
* This link shows all the broadcasters and territories across the world: http://www.efcworldwide.com/fight_card_type/efc-88/#watch