Fight preparation?Strength and conditioning training, ground work with Bobby Karagiannidis & Marc Hebert, stand up with Colin Nathan & Vusi Mtolo.
When and why did you start training for fighting?I’d always wanted to try something besides the rugby and water polo I did during high school, and when an old school friend, Neil Diesel, suggested I try martial arts I gave it a bash. At that time MMA in SA was pretty much unheard of and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu was in its infancy with Rodney King one of the few pioneers. It was pretty much a case of you went in, got thrown in the deep end, and if you could hack it, Rodney was prepared to work with you. The classes were tough and we had a high drop-out rate, but the guys that stuck around are now some of the country’s best fighters and instructors.
What ranks and titles have you held?E.F.C. Africa Heavyweight
What was your first MMA fight like?Some of the first MMA events in SA were hosted by Ultimate Fighting South Africa (UFSA). The trials were pretty crazy. If you wanted to compete you had to come down and show your ability in a scout hall in Blairgowrie. It was Pride rules, so a lot more dangerous than what MMA is today. Shortly after that I had my first fight at age 19, at Emperors Palace in 2001. I fought Kobus Huisamen who’d had over 100 professional kickboxing bouts, although I didn’t know it at the time. In round one I got my head smashed in. It was only the hard sparring at Street Tough that got me through it. I remember Bobby Karagiannidis was in my corner and at the end of the round he slapped me around and said, “Are you actually gonna throw a punch? Get back in there and do what you do!” I went back in, clinched up, took it to the ground, got mount and won by armbar.
Favourite fighting technique:It's revived my desire to be an MMA fighter. I went through a slump in my career, now I am back and going for the top!
Do you have any heroes?Dad - Carl van Zyl
Any other interesting info about you:Ex head-boy of Parktown boys. Down to earth stand-up guy (as per coach Colin Nathan). In 2004 I got my teaching degree and returned to Parktown Boys to teach. It’s a big responsibility working with younger people, knowing that you influence their lives. I taught a few academic subjects but now I teach Life Orientation, which consists of guidance in career opportunities, citizenship education, personal development and physical education. As a teacher the money isn’t great but I enjoy my job. It’s a good life and there is a definite sense of accomplishment. Plus, my pupils get my autograph on their tests each week. Outside school and MMA I’m an avid comic book collector. I’m a massive Marvel fan, anything to do with The Hulk or The Punisher I have to have. I love fishing and I also read, mainly SA military interventions in Africa and politically-based stuff. My fighting name ‘One Gear’ was given to me by my first MMA coach Rodney King, because my training always took place at one level, the highest one possible.
What was your job before you started fighting?Full time student.
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