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ROB SIMBOWE: Black Tiger’s story

…From being a street kid to being Zambia’s first Pro MMA fighter

By MICHAEL MIYOBA

BEING a street kid in a country considered as one of the poorest in the world can be extremely traumatic, because as a kid you are exposed to high levels of hunger, violence and diseases.

To survive street life, street kids often turn to substance abuse as a way of escaping the harsh realities of life on the street.

However, the country’s first ever professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighter, Robert “The Black Tiger” Simbowe managed to survive the many cold nights of living with no food, no shelter and sleeping under bridges to become a professional MMA fighter.

Born on August 14, 1987, Simbowe, as the only child lost his parents in 2000 to became an orphan and slept on the streets of Lusaka where he met other street kids who had no place to call home.

Simbowe lived on the streets until he was taken in by the Fountain of Hope Orphanage located in Lusaka’s Kamwala Township where he was presented with a chance to go to school but couldn’t take the opportunity because of having gotten used to life on the street.

“Life was hard for me. When I remember what I went through back then and not having parents, not having anyone to support me the way I wanted, it was a very difficult situation for me.

“I lived at Fountain of Hope around 2001.  When I was there, I was among the first street kids at the orphanage and we were the most famous ones because there were guys who were doing drama, those were not like me because they were patient enough to sit and study but for me I couldn’t see that, all I wanted was to work, to hustle so I never grabbed the opportunity to study,” Simbowe said.

“I had the opportunity to stay and study at Fountain of Hope but I kept running away.”

But after realising that “education can make living on the streets a temporary experience instead of a lifelong sentence,” Simbowe decided to take up another form of education which was to join the sport of boxing.

After relocating to South Africa, Simbowe was identified by international promoters who helped him to become Zambia’s first professional MMA fighter.

“When the opportunity came for me to go to South Africa I just told myself that I will have to give my best and try by all means to survive.

“I told myself that I’m going to work hard not to steal not to take what doesn’t belong to me so I went with the same principles and because of my good deeds, I’m reaping good things so if you do good to people, you reap good things,” said Simbowe, who is popularly known as the “Black Tiger” in the MMA world for his patience and pounce and strike style.

Now being drilled by coach Scorant Aya and Sithembiso Hadebe of Untouchable Boxing, Simbowe’s main ambition is to become the best in what he does and help make the world a better place.

His desire to making the world a better place saw him taking part in the first ever MMA Zambia symposium meant to mentor Zambian athletes and inspiring vulnerable kids.

Rob Simbowe faces off with Benjamin Bush

Coming back to Zambia after so many years of being in South Africa where he has fought in professional MMA fights compelled him to go back to Fountain of Hope where he donated some food stuffs and encouraged the kids at the orphanage to study hard to be better people.

“Regardless of who you are, let’s lead life that will inspire others. Let’s make this world a better place for all of us to live in. It is important to leave a legacy that people will look up to.

“My journey has been amazing and I have met a lot of people who have helped me. To help me,   you don’t need to give me money. To help me you don’t need to give me food but that piece of advice, that piece of encouragement that can make me a better person,” he said.

Simbowe’s gesture didn’t go unnoticed as MMA Zambia president Benjamin Bush hailed the athlete for his efforts to making the world a better place and inspiring vulnerable kids to become better people.

“I was moved to tears when Rob was explaining his life story to the girls in the dormitory – I think they must have been between the ages of 6-12, maybe 6-14, talking to them about tips for life and how to get ahead. It was really moving. It was really something special,” Bush said

Bush said Simbowe and current Bellator MMA featherweight champion Cris Cyborg Justino played a key role to inspiring Zambian athletes during the first ever MMA Zambia Symposium.

“The event was a massive success… without Rob and Cyborg, without IMMAF and MMASA (Mixed Martial Arts South Africa), we would be nowhere… we can’t thank them enough.

“Our target is all about using the sport for positive social change, creating role models, and creating a platform for athletes to achieve their dreams through IMMAF, which is one of the best platforms in the world, in sports,” Bush said.

After going through so many challenges as a former street kid, it will be delightful to see Simbowe excel as an MMA fighter to become a shining example like the greatest UFC champions Israel Adesanya and Kamaru Usman who have gained a lot of respect from representing the continent at international level.

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