Rollin’ in Dakar ’13 by KOA Team


In November 2013, KOA Martial Arts head instructor Kelly Grissom and four of his students, amateur Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and MMA practitioners, trained and competed with local martial artists in an effort to introduce BJJ to Senegal.

“We’re not a big school, but everyday Jiu Jitsu is the spirit we took over there”- KJ Grissom

KOA Team held BJJ seminars, as well as “flash-mob” style MMA exhibitions along city streets and beaches. KOA visitors rapidly immersed themselves in the exotic and ancient martial art of Laamb wrestling. Alongside their African counterparts, they competed in both BJJ and Laamb matches during a small, yet sensational tournament held on a beach along the Atlantic coast. A Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Instructor and cameraman also traveled to Senegal document the event.

This project contributed to the LionHeart vision to lift deserving and talented athletes from poverty by driving a long-term development of MMA in Africa with the aim of creating local and international opportunities for young athletes to excel in the world’s fastest growing sport and mainstream entertainment. A unique strength of the LionHeart Initiative is its ability to motivate volunteers and connect experienced martial artists with talented athletes in Africa. Over the years, the MMA for Africa movement, which grew out of the LionHeart Initiative, has led to dozens of volunteer instructors worldwide traveling to Africa and offering free seminars in MMA or underlying grappling and striking arts. In return, these foreign visitors are afforded a life-changing experience in training with local martial artists and being exposed to the rich culture and traditions of African communities.

While continuing short-term projects led by foreign volunteers to grow MMA and underlying martial arts (thereafter cited as MMA) in Africa, but recognizing its limitations, the LionHeart Initiative will also fund long-term MMA travelers to live and train in African communities. Concurrently, LionHeart will promote and support pan-African exchanges for African MMA fighters to travel to neighboring countries to share their skills, which represents a cost effective and sustainable long-term concept of operation. Additionally, LionHeart will help organize competitive circuits and collaborate with local promoters to hold MMA events, which will serve promote the sport locally, motivate aspiring pro-fighters, and alter the local martial arts landscape.