Themba Gorimbo Biography: Early Life | Martial Arts Journey | EFC Champion and UFC Fighter | Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson
Themba Gorimbo is a Zimbabwean mixed martial artist who competes in the welterweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). He is also the former EFC welterweight champion and the first Zimbabwean to win a UFC fight.
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Early Life and Struggles
Themba Gorimbo was born on January 23, 1991, in a small district called Bikita in Eastern Zimbabwe. He lost his mother when he was nine years old and his father four years later. He had to fend for himself and his siblings by digging for Marange diamonds illegally in the local fields.
One night, he was caught by the police and attacked by German shepherds, leaving him with scars all over his body. He barely survived the ordeal and decided to change his life.
Following the near-death experience, Gorimbo decided to skip Zimbabwe in 2008 and set camp illegally in South Africa at 17.
“It was just like a decision; either you want to be here, or you want to be there. I didn’t have a passport.
I came through the river. It was just one of those times you take the sacrifice, which is dangerous to do. A lot of people died.
For a young guy – I was about to turn 18 – it was very difficult. It just showed me what kind of person I was.”
As fate would have hit, Gorimbo was caught by immigration officials and deported back because he did not have a passport.
On the bus back, he disembarked at the first stop in Zimbabwe and stubbornly returned. Three hours later, he had illegally entered South Africa again.
After crossing the border, Gorimbo encountered the worst he had overlooked.
“When you cross illegally into South Africa, it’s not just the police you are running from; you are also running from criminals – they rob people crossing because they know you have money. The criminals saw us and trapped us. I remember seeing this big knife, and I passed out. It’s like a movie. I fell to the ground, and the rest of the guys ran away. The guys who were robbing us ran after them and left me there.”
Gorimbo regained consciousness and decided to hand himself over to the police. However, one of the people he was with discouraged him, and they headed to Johannesburg.
The UFC fighter lived on the streets, giving out fliers for R20 rand a day so he could buy a drink and bread to eat.
Luckily, he raised enough money to call his cousins in Cape Town and went there. He worked as a gardener, painter, and security guard in Cape Town.
In 2010 at the age of 19, Gorimbo watched the movie Never Back Down. His life was never the same.
“I’m like, ‘This a sport, fighting? OK, cool, I think I can do that.’ I come from a fighting family – all my cousins, even my father, used to always fight. It’s in our nature. I got my first fight three months after training. I won it with a seven-second knockout.”
Themba Gorimbo Martial Arts Journey
He joined a local gym and learned karate, taekwondo, and kickboxing. He also developed an interest in wrestling and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. He competed in various tournaments and won several medals and trophies. He became known as “The Answer” for his ability to solve any problem in the cage.
Themba Gorimbo, EFC Champion and UFC Fighter
Gorimbo made his professional MMA debut in 2010 and amassed a record of 10-3 before signing with Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) in 2018. He won the EFC welterweight title in his second fight for the promotion by defeating Luke Michael via submission. He defended his belt twice against Lyle Karam and Jose Da Rocha, earning him a contract with the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) in 2022.
Gorimbo became the first Zimbabwean to win a UFC fight when he defeated Takashi Sato by unanimous decision at UFC Vegas 73 on May 20, 2023. He revealed that he had only $7.49 in his bank account before the fight and that he slept on a couch in the gym due to a lack of resources and training space. He also auctioned off his fight kit online and used the money to build a bush pump for his village in Zimbabwe, providing them with clean water.
Recognition and Inspiration
Gorimbo’s story of overcoming hardships and giving back to his community has inspired many people around the world. He received praise from celebrities like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who posted a video on Instagram stating that he was motivated by Gorimbo’s perseverance and generosity. He also received support from his training partners, including Colby Covington, who may become the next challenger for the UFC welterweight title.
Gorimbo is currently ranked as the number 15 welterweight in the UFC and has a record of 11-4. He is regarded as one of the best fighters from Africa and a role model for aspiring MMA athletes in Zimbabwe. He is also a humble and generous person who cares about his family and his village. He has said that he wants to be himself and be cherished for being himself rather than being fake.