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GLORY 18's Zack Mwekassa: 'If I hit someone in the face, it's going to be game over'

"The Black Warrior" is looking to follow up his highlight-reel knockout over Pat Barry this Friday night (Nov. 7, 2014), when he enters the GLORY 18 one-night, four-man light heavyweight contender tournament. He will be matched up against Brian Collette in the opening round and said he wants to "give the fans something to talk about."

Mwekessa ending Pat Barry's evening at GLORY 16 Denver
Mwekessa ending Pat Barry's evening at GLORY 16 Denver
GLORY Sports International

Punching power is something a fighter is born with.

It is not something that can be taught. And in the world of combat sports, it has served time and time again as the greatest of equalizers. In boxing and kickboxing its advantage reaches the greatest of heights because the fight cannot go to the ground and those up against it must face the music and stand in front of an imminent attack.

Zack Mwekassa is a man who wields such power and at GLORY 18 he is looking to "create mayhem."

"If I hit someone in the face it's going to be game over," he told ahead of his GLORY 18 light heavyweight tournament match up against Brian Collette at the Grand Resort Hotel and Casino in Shawnee, Oklahoma on Fri. night (Nov. 7, 2014).

Mwekassa's punching power was brought to the attention of those in attendance at GLORY 16 in Denver and to all who tuned in to Spike TV that night and witnessed the bludgeoning of former UFC heavyweight Pat Barry inside of a round; a vicious uppercut that sent Barry to the canvas, head bouncing upon impact, where he remained for several minutes after the fight's conclusion.

Suddenly, everyone was rushing to Google to find out who "The Black Warrior" was.

If you do some digging, you will learn that he was once the WBF intercontinental cruiserweight champion in boxing. You will also discover that in the beginning of his career, he trained in kickboxing under Steve Kalakoda, who trained K-1 veterans: Mike Bernardo and Francois Botha. But due to opportunities being scarce back then, he moved into boxing.

Look past the surface of his athletic accomplishments and there lies a story that is far from that of a typical fighter.

Mwekassa survived a civil war that tore his native country (Democratic Republic of Congo) apart, and also a volcanic eruption of Mt. Nyiragongo that forced he and his family to flee from Goma and seek refuge elsewhere. The No. 11-ranked GLORY light heavyweight would eventually settle down in Johannesburg and it would be there where he would embark on his fighting career.

His path led him to an American audience, a knockout victory on Spike TV and now his life is forever changed.

"It's been amazing," said Mwekassa, who has 24 career knockouts, 10 in kickboxing. "My life has changed tremendously after the Pat Barry fight. My life has changed a lot. I've gotten a lot of respect from a wider range of people from boxers to kickboxers, it's amazing."

The victory over Barry took place in May and the South African-based fighter didn't waste any time when he returned home. He jumped back into the boxing ring in June and defeated Bernard Adie by knockout in the seventh round for the All-African heavyweight title and improved his boxing record to 15-4. "I came back with a lot of momentum and I took the guy out very, very quickly," said Mwekassa.

The combat sports world may be just getting to know the man who was once called "The African Tyson," but back home he has gained more popularity than ever.

"Things have been great," says Mwekassa. "I was born in the DRC and now I fight out of Johannesburg. I have become a tremendous figure in my country. A sport figure, an icon, a fight icon. I have a lot of people looking up to me. A lot of professional fighters looking up to me. A lot of MMA guys looking up to me. A lot of boxers looking up to me."

GLORY 18 will be the first-ever taste of tournament action for Mwekassa, and every fighter handles them differently. Some despise them. Some pace themselves to reserve energy for the next round. Others go all out in the first fight and let the chips fall where they may. The newcomer to the one-night tournament isn't too concerned about the difficult task of navigating a night of multiple fights.

As far as he is concerned, he is a combatant who is paid to entertain audiences and that is exactly what he will do.

"I'm a gladiator," he said. "My job is to fight. Some people fly airplanes. Some people are doctors. I'm a gladiator. It doesn't make much difference to me. I know a lot of people don't know much about me and it's my first time in a tournament. It's going to be exciting. I'm very excited. I cannot wait to see the results. I like to think I am a very dedicated and hard worker. I feel great. I am well prepared. I want to give the fans something to talk about."

Mwekassa, 30, said he's had a "tremendous training camp" and is a "much better" fighter than he was when he fought Barry. He has worked on many things and is much more comfortable than he was with the initial switch back to kickboxing. As far as game planning and watching video on his upcoming opponent or the other tournament participants, that is something he doesn't do or believe in doing. "It's me against me," he says.

"Very frankly, I don't know anything about Brian Collette. All I know about him is that he has two arms and two legs and that's all I need to know about him. I don't spend time watching fighters. I've spent time watching Peter Aerts, watching Mike Bernardo. I don't spend time watching people I am going to fight. I just know I have to do a job and I know I can do that job."

"I am more worried about myself than I am about Brian Collette. I know a lot of people believe looking at your opponent and watching them. There are positive things that can come out of that, but not necessarily all the time. I believe I should spend more time focusing on myself and bettering myself. I'm not worried about Brian Collette at all."

At GLORY 16, Mwekassa fought at heavyweight and weighed in at 214 pounds. Now he will drop down to light heavyweight for the contender tournament. He admitted it wasn't a planned move, the chance to be in the GLORY 18 tournament was just too good to pass up. He also shared what he believes his true weight class is.

"I was presented an opportunity to be a part of this light heavyweight tournament and I said 'Why not?'' he explained. "I don't really classify myself as heavyweight or light heavyweight or anything. I like to call myself 'kick ass weight.' Any weight you put me at I am going to fight. I don't think it's about the size of the dog in the fight. It's about the size of the fight in the dog. There are some very, very brilliant fighters that are much more talented than the bigger guys. So why not fight in a four-man tournament? Let me create mayhem."

Most fighters would be thrilled with winning a one-night tournament and cashing in a winning check of $100,000 dollars. But it's much more than that for Johannesburg's fight icon. He speaks in terms that would make any fight promoter crack a smile. He wants to put on a performance and bring the crowd in Shawnee, Oklahoma to its feet and blow away the Spike TV audience watching at home. And he puts a huge emphasis and level of importance on doing so. He knows he is a gladiator and he wants to win the crowd and have everyone remember his name and tune in whenever he fights.

"It's about keeping people in awe," Mwekassa said. "Keeping people excited. Keeping people amazed. Having them say 'Oh my God, what was that?' That is what I am working toward. Everyday I surprise myself. Everyday I shock myself with things I can do. I am very happy. I cannot wait. If people thought I performed well against Pat Barry, I think they are going to be amazed at GLORY 18."

Should he prevail against Brian Collette and defeat either Saulo Cavalari or Danyo Ilunga in the final to win it all, he will have a future date against the current GLORY light heavyweight champion, Gokhan Saki. A fight that would only add to his already incredible story. Mwekassa isn't looking past anyone at GLORY 18, but he knows how much winning the tournament would mean to his career and how historic a fight against a legend like Saki would be, but not just for the reasons you would assume.

"Let me say something very interesting," he explained. "The fact of the matter is, winning this tournament would be great for me. Not just because I would be fighting Gokhan Saki, because I would be the first man probably on earth to own an international boxing title and fight for a world kickboxing championship in history. I'm going to be the first man -- not the first African -- the first man to have a current boxing title fighting for a world title in kickboxing. I think it's great. It's going to be fireworks."

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