The never-ending pursuit of greatness. It’s an idea that the vast majority of professional athletes endure when they are reflecting on their careers. Getting up in the morning, training, competing—it all leads to various achievements. In mixed martial arts, winning a major championship is considered a step towards greatness. Keeping it is yet another milestone, as is moving on to bigger and better things. Only after a fighter has completed that checklist can they truly say that they have succeeded in their craft.

For Demarte Pena, that opportunity to achieve greatness for a second time comes at EFC Africa 31 on July 3 when he faces Nkazimulo Zulu for the EFC Africa bantamweight title. After already having a taste for gold after winning the promotion’s featherweight title, Pena is keen to replicate that feeling and show the world that he is Africa’s best fighter across two weight divisions.

“When you work so hard for something, day in and day out, and eventually accomplish that goal, it’s an indescribable feeling,” Pena admitted to The MMA Corner. “At this very moment, [winning another belt] is at the top of my goals, and it would mean the world to me to win another belt.”

Competing in mixed martial arts wasn’t always something that Pena had considered. As a child, like most other boys, Pena was active. In fact, he was probably a bit too active. Training in martial arts was an outlet that he could use to release that built-up energy. And from there, his journey just kept on going.

“I’m sure I was going to be doing something similar to what my grandfather and father did. They were soldiers. Probably just follow their footsteps, or something along those lines,” Pena revealed. “I’ve always been very active as a young boy, and it inevitably led me to martial arts. As I was growing up, I was always looking for the next best thing. So, when I was about six years young, I started with karate. Then it just led from martial art to martial art, until I started with MMA.

Pena (EFC Africa)

Pena (EFC Africa)

“It’s all about staying ahead in the game. You need to keep trying to get better. When you start relaxing, that’s when someone comes along and humbles you. It’s all about the challenge, having two individuals step inside the cage and compete against each other. Not just about the physical, but the mental challenge—it’s awesome.”

For his EFC Africa 31 bout, Pena is making the drop down to the bantamweight division. In the process, he’s also vacating his featherweight title. The change in scenery was a necessity for Pena to avoid a potential match-up with his training partner, Boyd Allen.

“The dieting isn’t fun, I will confess,” Pena admitted. “But I have been diligent in my approach, so I’m certain to make the weight drop to bantamweight. I’ve always been a smaller featherweight, in comparison to my opponents, so I truly believe this is the right division for me.”

Pena made his MMA debut for EFC Africa back in 2011, and he has since enjoyed an eight-fight winning streak. With mixed martial arts growing rapidly across all of Africa, and most notably South Africa under the EFC Africa banner, fans are beginning to eagerly anticipate the increasing number of events. Pena, for one, enjoys putting on a show for them.

“The way the fans are—[they are] very passionate about the sport and are very loyal to their favorite athletes,” Pena said. “As with all my previous fights, just expect me to fight with everything I have and to keep fighting until the victory is won. See you all there on the third of July, EFC 31, Coca-Cola Dome, Johannesburg, South Africa.”

On July 3, Pena has the chance to continue his rise as one of the best fighters in Africa. After already capturing gold once, he is just one win away from exerting his dominance on another division. Winning a title is a big deal for any fighter, but being able to win titles in two weight divisions is something that not every fighter can do. It’s only the best of the best that get that honor, and Pena plans to show that he is indeed one of the best mixed martial artists in the world. He is closer to greatness than some may think.

Follow Pena on Twitter: @thewolfpena and on Instagram: thewolfpena

About The Author

Staff Writer, Australia

Located in Queanbeyan, New South Wales, Neil Rooke has been writing about the sport of MMA since 2011. In the past, Neil has written for Cage Junkies and has written for Fight! Magazine as well as Fist! Fight Magazine. Neil is also a regular contributor to Fight! Magazine Australia and Yahoo! Sports Singapore.