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Irshaad Sayed puts EFC title hopes on temporary hold to book May match up

Irshaad Sayed is the No. 1 contender in the bantamweight division for EFC, the leading promotion on the African continent, but the 26 year old won't get a chance to add a second MMA title to his collection just yet, because he has other priorities.

The 9-2 South African challenger initially agreed to face 10-0 champion Demarte Pena in his native Angola this June. It would have been a fascinating title bout, pitting the two best bantamweights on the continent together in a country which is better known for its warlords than its mixed martial artists.

Sayed still expects to challenge for the title, but says as a practicing Muslim, he was simply unable to accept a fight which fell during the month of Ramadan.

"It's a matter of priorities and for me religion comes first. Fighting during Ramadan is just too hard on the body, I tried it before and I lost, so I won't do it again."

It means the opportunity to add the EFC bantamweight title to the belt he won while competing for Chinese promotion Ruff is on hold for a few months. However, Sayed is determined to keep active and has instead agreed to face Oumpie Sebeko in Cape Town on May 7th.

EFC 39 will be Sayed's third fight in a row in Cape Town which is the place where he was born and bred. He made his name training and fighting in Asia but says that there is still no place like home.

"It's an incredible opportunity because every time I fight here I get to see all my friends and family. Being able to fight in Cape Town is a blessing."

However, he has no plans to permanently relocate back to South Africa and says Singapore will be his base for the foreseeable future.

"I spent many years training in Thailand and Hong Kong but for an MMA fighter in Asia, there is nowhere better to be than Evolve MMA in Singapore. Training with all the MMA champions like Shinya Aoki, Rafael Dos Anjos, and Ben Askren, and all the BJJ black belts and wrestling coaches, has helped me become a much more well-rounded mixed martial artist and I am not so dependent on my Muay Thai anymore."

Sayed was initially set to face Nkazimulo Zulu but the former former EFC 135-pound champion suffered an injury in training, so Sebeko stepped up to replace him. With three wins out of three for the promotion, the "White Tiger" has already done enough to earn a title fight and some have suggested that he should just sit and wait until a suitable date to take on Pena arises.

Going six months or more without a fight is not something Sayed was willing to contemplate and he plans to carry on, clearing out the division for as long as it takes to get that title shot.

"As a fighter I like to stay active and I train every single day at Evolve MMA, even when I don't have a fight booked so I am always sharpening my tools. Pena is fighting Cedric Doyle and I will happily take the belt off whoever wins that fight, hopefully later this year."

A battle between Pena and Sayed would be one of the biggest MMA bouts to ever take place in Africa. For it to happen both men will need to get through their respective assignments but 'The White Tiger' is determined not to let Sebeko spoil his dreams of an EFC super fight.

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