Hard work pays off for promising fighter

Gary Joshua took on Johannesburgs Jasen van der Merwe at EFC 58. Here he is, left, staring his opponent down and, right, sinking in a guillotine choke.

He says he wants to test himself against the best and if he keeps up his current winning streak, we may just see former Grassy Park-based Gary Joshua, 29, making a run at contendership in the Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) bantamweight division.

Watching Joshua in the hexagon it is easy to see how he got the moniker of Relentless. He stares down his opponent with intensity and at the sound of the bell it’s a call to war for the fighter who has been making a name for himself on the mixed martial arts (MMA) circuit in Cape Town for a number of years now.

After going 2-0 as a professional, he is slowly starting to garner a wider base of support.

“I started with submission grappling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu (BJJ) nine years ago. A friend introduced me to it and after my first class, I was hooked.

“I loved the fact that you are constantly being challenged and striving for a perfection that one can never really reach yet you constantly improve your skill set and try to become better every day.

“One of the best things was that even if you were the smaller man, if you had good technique you could defeat a bigger opponent with relative ease,” he said.

At EFC 58, held at GrandWest earlier this month, Joshua came up against Johannesburg’s Jasen van der Merwe. Their was a definite hint of animosity as both fighters squared off in the cage. Van der Merwe came out aggressively but Joshua was able to call on his kickboxing skills (he is a provincial amateur champion) and managed to counter his opponent’s go-forward style well.

Before long the two were on the ground, jossling for position. The crowd was restless but after only a few seconds Joshua was able to sink in a deep guillotine choke from off of his back. Just like that, in the first round, the fight was over, with Joshua claiming his second scalp in the biggest MMA promotion in the country.

“There was definitely some heat between myself and Jasen with some banter leading up to the fight. What got to me was the fact that he was the only fighter who never made weight, which I felt was unprofessional and disrespectful at this level, especially after all the trash talking he did. The fight went pretty much as I expected and I was able to finish him one minute and 30 seconds into round one.

“EFC is an amazing platform where fighters get to display their skills and getting my first fight there last year was a great experience. I really wanted to prove that I could compete with the best and getting a technical knockout in the first round of my first pro fight against a veteran fighter was awesome.

“Looking ahead I just want to keep working hard, improve my skills and mindset and solidify a position as a contender and a force to be reckoned with in my division,” he said.

Although Joshua was primarily known as a good grappler in his amateur days, he has worked hard to round out his skills with striking and jiu-jitsu so as not to be labeled as a one-dimensional fighter. With the motto to show up and show off, he knows that it’s the hard work in the gym that pays off when the cage door closes.

“When I began this journey I was only into submission grappling and BJJ and I used to train judo with the SA navy in Simon’s Town and over the years developed a strong grappling base but when I became interested in MMA I had to challenge myself to get a more realistic feel for a real fight and started to work on my stand up and striking technique.

“I have trained at many gyms all over the Western Cape. The upside of that is that you learn to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. Every gym and instructor has their own methods and it is important to keep learning wherever you can.

“I was probably only about three months into training when I entered my first competition. I’ve always had a drive to test myself and have competed in individual disciplines like grappling, BJJ, judo, boxing, K-1 kickboxing and MMA.

“In 2015 I won the Cape Fight League super-am bantamweight MMA title and that’s when I made the decision to pursue MMA professionally. I used to watch EFC on TV and thought ‘I can do that’ and now I get to have my armour tested against the best guys around.

“The friendships you develop after facing off one-on-one is something pure and only a fellow martial artist will understand how testing yourself like that works. You either win or you learn.

“If you have that dream, don’t stop until you achieve it. There will be many obstacles to distract you and people who will doubt you but you have the means to make it a reality. It starts with just showing up for training every day with the mindset of a champion. The results will follow,” he said.