When Riaan ‘Bullet Proof’ Lombard made his pro debut at EFC AFRICA 06 and destroyed Warren du Toit in just 48 seconds, he was heralded as a huge prospect for the light heavyweight division. But, when his fitness failed him at EFC AFRICA 07, the critics swiftly wrote him off as a flash in the pan. Now, Riaan Lombard is back to let everyone know that Bullet Proof is here to stay and, more importantly, he is ready to take on Chett Meyer at EFC AFRICA 08.
Lombard comes from a professional wrestling background. However, he’s quick to point out that MMA fans should not discredit professional wrestling without considering its benefits.“Wrestling training is totally different to MMA training. Wrestling is very physically demanding and I definitely get hurt more in wrestling than in MMA. Wrestling requires you to condition your body for jumps and falls out of the ring and all kinds of pain. I’m used to punishment and I’m sure I have one of the strongest chins in EFC AFRICA. I’m used to getting beat up in wrestling and it’s made me tough for MMA. In MMA, there’s a referee to make sure that when you are too badly injured, the fight comes to an end. In wrestling, no matter what happens, the show must go on.”
Lombard’s wrestling career began three years ago, when he joined Ananzi’s Pro Wrestling Academy. A friend of Lombard’s, Kobus Erasmus (Ananzi on SABC 2’s WWP Thunderstrike) started the club to grow local wrestling. As soon as Erasmus showed Lombard the ropes, he jumped in headfirst and found that he had natural ability.
“I took part in my first show after 3 months. Eventually I became the All African Heavyweight Champion, but lost my title to Ananzi. However, I’ve got a competition coming up 2 days after EFC AFRICA 08 and I’ll be fighting Xterminator so I may reclaim the title soon. Besides wrestling locally, I have also wrestled overseas in India, and recently wrestled in the USA for the WWE’s FCW (Florida Wrestling Championship). I was one of only 5 South Africans to ever be invited so it was a huge opportunity. In general, SA wrestling is far behind wrestling in the US but we are catching up. What we really need is a TV deal; we had WWP Thunderstrike on SABC 2 but the last season was two years ago. Unfortunately wrestling just isn’t as popular as it was in the 80s, but it seems to be picking up.”
Although Lombard has opportunities as a wrestler, he admits that they pale in comparison to the doors that are being opened by MMA thanks to EFC AFRICA.“At this point in time I’m more interested in MMA but if I’m offered an FCW wrestling contract I will consider it. Moving overseas to wrestle is a huge commitment and I’d only really start making money after 2 years. Besides that, it would not be easy to leave everyone behind, so I’m more looking at the bright future offered by the incredibly fast-growing sport of MMA.”
In the vein of wrestlers such as Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley who made the transition to MMA, Lombard believes that his background gives him a physical and psychological edge. “I want to be the EFC AFRICA light heavyweight champ and I want to take EFC AFRICA to the next level in terms of entertainment. For me, EFC AFRICA is not just about fighting, but character and the mental game as well. If you’re a great fighter, that’s awesome, but if you can bring in psychology you have an immediate advantage. If you can corrupt your opponent’s mind before a fight and steal his confidence, he shouldn’t even get into the cage because he will lose. To be the best, you need the whole package; fitness, fighting skills and a strong personality.”
Lombard will no doubt need all of his skills when he takes on Chett Meyer, a Fight Fit Militia fighter with a record of 3 wins, 1 loss.
“I’m looking forward to fighting Chett because I’ve got a point to prove to all the critics that took shots at me after I gassed out in my last fight. I must win this fight, and I’m going to. Chett is an awesome opponent and I have a lot of respect for him but I’m 26, he’s 32 and I know I’ve got a long career ahead of me. Unlike last time I don’t have a weight problem so I should be at full power on fight night. My fitness is good right now but I know that you can never be too fit for a fight so I’m still working hard!”