I stand here before you not as a prophet, but as a humble servant of you, the people.” – Nelson Mandela

On Dec. 5, 2013, one of the world’s most inspirational figures passed away. Nelson Mandela will forever be remembered as the man who was instrumental in the abolishment of apartheid in South Africa.

A country adored him.

The world mourned him.

And all over the globe, there were people that he had inspired.

On the morning of Dec. 6, South African-born mixed martial artist Vuyisile Colossa was preparing for his next big challenge inside the ONE FC cage. He was set to face an opponent that many expected would run right through him.

True to his character, Colossa dedicated his bout to the humble leader that changed the lives of thousands of people. Colossa touched the hearts of thousands of people around the world and inside the SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City, Philippines, as he dedicated his fight to a man who could never be forgotten.

“I didn’t realize how people would react. I just followed my instincts,” Colossa admitted in an exclusive interview with The MMA Corner. “I thought, ‘Why not?’ In the morning, I saw from all the news about the death of Nelson Mandela and going into the fight I thought that I would dedicate the fight to him. When I got to the arena, [ONE FC President] Victor [Cui] said that I should come out to the South African anthem and that would be a really good way to show my respect, and I did and it was very emotional in the cage after [the fight].”

The sport of mixed martial arts is heavily rooted in the want for fighters to overcome adversity in order to win a fight. Furthermore, everybody likes a good underdog tale, and it’s certainly something that Colossa is familiar with, having come into his last two ONE FC bouts as the heavy underdog against top-ranked opponents.

“At the end of the day, a fight is a fight,” he explained. “It doesn’t really matter to me whether you come in as a favorite or as an underdog, but I guess it matters to the fans and the viewers of the sport because they like to cheer for the underdog. For me personally, it doesn’t really matter because I am used to it from my career in Muay Thai, where people would always expect for me to lose, so I have naturally put up with that.”

Growing up during apartheid in South Africa means that Colossa has lived a life that people in Western culture could possibly not even begin to understand. Life was certainly different back then.

“In my opinion, it wasn’t that bad, because that’s just what I was used to,” he admitted. “From the outside, though, people might say that I had a harsh and hard life. I grew up with oppression, and that’s just how life was and you accepted things like that. For me, I was always humble and always focused and always thought that one day I would become a great fighter.”

After his ONE FC 13 victory over Strikeforce and UFC vet Caros Fodor, Colossa expressed his interest in fighting top-ranked fighter Shinya Aoki for the ONE FC lightweight title. Although Aoki has since made a drop to featherweight, it’s not personal for Colossa, and although a victory over an accomplished talent like Aoki would do wonders for his surging mixed martial arts career, Colossa just has his eye on that piece of gold that Aoki is holding on to.

“I just want to fight for the belt. It can be the vacant belt, it can be Aoki, it can be whoever,” Colossa admitted. “At the moment, Aoki is the champion, so I want to fight him because he is the champion. It’s not like I just want to fight Aoki. I just want to fight the belt.”

The best kind of success is the kind that comes to those who deserve it the most. In what was a truly heartwarming display on Dec. 6, Colossa showed not only what his skills could do inside that cage, but also what great courage can bring to a person. Fighting is one thing, but heart is a completely different ball game. Colossa showed that he has what it takes to compete with the very best fighters who grace the ONE FC cage. And there would be no better way to tribute a fallen national hero than to show that the dreams of a man who lived through some of the toughest times a country could endure really can come true.

Vuyisile would like to thank Epic MMA, Team Colossa and the Colossa Foundation. He would also like to thank all of his fans for their continued support. Follow him on Twitter: @CheetahColossa

Top Photo: Vuyisile Colossa (ONE FC)