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From Zimbabwe’s Diamond Thief to UFC Star: The Extraordinary Journey of Themba Gorimbo

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Ayize claire

May 19, 2024

Discovering MMA and Finding a New Path

Themba Gorimbo’s story is one of the most remarkable in the world of sports. The 33-year-old UFC welterweight fighter has traveled a path few can imagine, transforming from a diamond thief in Zimbabwe to an inspiring athlete in the UFC.

From Zimbabwe’s Diamond Mines to the UFC

Born into adversity, Gorimbo’s journey has been anything but easy. Losing both parents by the age of 13, he found himself alone and struggling to survive. The Marange diamond fields, notorious for crime and danger, became his refuge. “It’s not like the mafia we see on TV, but in Zimbabwe, any place with minerals brings bad people,” Gorimbo told BBC Sport. “I’m not shy to say I was stealing diamonds and smuggling them. It was normal then.”

A Life of Constant Struggle

Gorimbo’s life was a constant battle. He often faced the police, endured attacks from guard dogs, and bore the scars of these encounters. At 17, he found a 12-carat diamond and seized the opportunity to move to South Africa, hoping to work as a gardener. However, his journey was fraught with difficulties, including deportation and even being held hostage.

Discovering MMA and Finding a New Path

In South Africa, Gorimbo discovered mixed martial arts (MMA) after watching the film Never Back Down. Despite financial struggles, he trained hard, even when it meant spending almost his entire daily wage on gym fees. His dedication paid off when his coach allowed him to train for free, recognizing his potential.

Rising Through the Ranks

Gorimbo had his first amateur fight in 2010 and turned professional in 2013. His UFC debut in February 2023 did not go as planned, but he bounced back, securing a unanimous decision win against Takashi Sato despite battling illness and financial hardship. His honesty about his struggles, including posting an image of his nearly empty bank account, caught the attention of WWE superstar Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

A Life-Changing Encounter

Moved by Gorimbo’s story, Johnson, who once had only $7 to his name, made a surprise visit to Gorimbo and gifted him a house in Miami, Florida. This act of generosity was more than just charity; it was a recognition of Gorimbo’s resilience and potential.

Giving Back to the Community

Gorimbo’s success has not made him forget his roots. He is currently building a library in Zimbabwe and working on projects to provide clean water to his village. “These things that I’m doing, like now I’m in the process of building a library, it’s just something I enjoy doing, helping where I can with what I have,

” Gorimbo said. “When I’m happy, I’m dangerous as a fighter.”

Inspiring the Next Generation

Gorimbo’s main goal, besides becoming a UFC champion, is to inspire African children facing similar hardships.

“If you choose a path and work your ass off, then you can become anything,” he said.

His journey from the harsh realities of Zimbabwe’s diamond fields to the global stage of the UFC is a testament to this belief.

As Gorimbo prepares for his next fight against Ramiz Brahimaj on May 18 in Las Vegas, he carries with him not just the hopes of a career in the UFC, but the dreams of countless others who see in him a symbol of hope and resilience.

“Everything that happened in my life led me to be who I am right now,” Gorimbo reflects.

His story, filled with struggle and triumph, is a powerful reminder that with determination and hard work, anything is possible.

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