Mwande Vapi Crossing Continents to Fight
By Mike LNg
Mawande Vapi is a former champion in Muay Thai for South Africa. Mawande in a very short time in Thaiboxing complied a record of 24 wins with only 2 losses and no draws. Mawande quickly became known for his explosive power and strength and would even take his opponents to the limit in his experiences in MMA. Mwande will be making his first appearance in the United States versus Shawn Yarbough with the winner claiming the IKKC international light heavy weight title at the WCK Muay Thai event on August 28th, 2010. Shawn is the current holder of the IKKC light heavy weight title. And now to the interview, per usual answers are in bold with questions in normal text.
We briefly discussed your career in Muay Thai in South Africa. What made you decide to pursue Muay Thai as a chosen sport?
At a young age I used to watch movies like the Kickboxer (by Jean Claude Van Damme), Enter the Dragon (by Bruce Lee) therefore my love for martial arts developed from there.Since I have done boxing and karate and in both sports I was good, I decided that I could both combine the two and do kickboxing. At the time I was doing kick-boxing I developed the love for Muay Thai, so I thought this sport is tougher and better than kick boxing. So thats how all it started.
How old were you when you began Muay Thai?
I was in my early 20’s, so at the time I was 22, about 5 years ago.
You also mentioned your coach is an acquaintance of Steve Kalakoda, father and coach of K-1 fighter Virgil Kalkoda. Is there a similarity in coaching styles?
Not at all, our style is totally different.We have a different approach and concepts in this fight game.
How is the Muay Thai scene in South Africa overall?
In South Africa right now the Muay Thai scene is not doing well in some provinces because of MMA introduction but it is gradually taking off in other provinces.
Having had some bigger names come out of South Africa like Mike Bernardo, Andrew Thompson and Virgil Kalakoda do you feel you have a legacy to live up to having come from there?
Yes, I believe so. Because I’ve trained with the likes of Andrew Thompson. He lives in the same town with me in South Africa,East London. At times I would go and train with him at his gym.
Some observers and fans of international Muay Thai have said that Africa may be the undiscovered continent in terms of Muay Thai. Chris Ngimbi of Congo recently has been making impressive progress in its Show Time and many South Africans now train and fight in Thailand. Do you feel Muay Thai is growing in Africa overall?
Yes, I believe theres a lot of talent in Africa but due to the lack of sponsorships and finance.The sportsmen end up losing their interest to the sport.
In your upcoming fight in California the bout will be under full rules Muay Thai how comfortable are you with elbows?
Well in this fight-game I’m comfortable with anything.
Some people may not know that in addition to your Muay Thai experience you also have some MMA experience what made you decide to return to Muay Thai?
Muay Thai is where my heart is. I just love the whole package that Muay Thai carries.
Where are you currently training at and what brought you to the United States?
I’m currently training at Miami, Florida now under the supervision of Danny “Hawk” Normandy at Normandy Gym. I came here to gain experience and to prepare for this coming fight.
It seems you are a largely unknown fighter in the USA. What can Americans expect to see in your fight?
An explosive undiscovered talent, a fighter who brings flair to the sport of Muay Thai.
This will be your first fight in America. What have you heard about American fighters?
Yes, its my first fight in America, I heard that Americans have mastered the technique of the sport. They have superb skills and techniques in Muay Thai.
Did you train in other martial arts before Muay Thai?
Not really, I did a bit of karate and boxing.
What qualities do you think go into being a top fighter?
Determination, focus and hard work. That’s what makes a top fighter.
It seems more and more international Thaiboxers are now travelling to Thailand to refine their skills. Would you one day like to train there?
Yes of course, that would be a dream come true. I would love to visit Thailand to refine my skills and top-up my Muay Thai game.
What do you know of your opponent Shawn Yarborough?
I dont know much about him and that to me is not a problem. I have fought fighters in the past that I didnt know anything about. I think what’s important is that a fighter must know himself very well and the capabilities he carries with him. The fighter must know himself very well and be confident of handling anything that comes his way.
Do you have a favorite technique in Muay Thai?
I really can’t say I do because every technique works for me.
What do you consider your biggest achievement in Muay Thai so far?
Fighting in the United States is my biggest step I have achieved so far.
Who so far has been your most difficult opponent in Muay Thai?
Leon Maynhard in South Africa. That guy is one of the fighers that is determined and doesnt give up. In occasions that I fought him I was in bad shape but he shows determination every time he fights.
Who are some of your heroes in Muay Thai?
I have local heroes, the guys who have made it into the international circuit: Andrew Thomson,Mike Bernardo and Virgil Kalakoda.
After seeing some of your training I was impressed with how remarkably light on your feet you are at 175lbs. What do you train specifically to maintain it?
I run a lot, lots of roadwork. I also like working my cardio with lots of physical bodyweight excersises done rapidly with a faster pace.
For new fans of yours and for Americans less familiar with you what would you like them most to know about Mawande Vapi?
I’m a gentleman, a down to earth person, and a person that is easy to socialize with. I like to meet people and make new friends. I’m easy going and try to help others in some ways if I can.