BLACKOUT for DAKAR ’16 by Bacar Baldé

BLACKOUT for DAKAR ’16 by Bacar “Blackout” Baldé

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The LionHeart Initiative hosted French MMA Fighter Bacar “Blackout” Baldé, a veteran of 22 professional MMA fights, who has offered to support the LionHeart vision. In December 2016, Bacar offered MMA classes, led grappling classes, and cross-trained in Laamb wrestling in Dakar, Senegal. As son of the continent, Bacar holds deep passion for West Africa and its culture. A highlight of his journey was a chance to experience and cross-train with Senegalese traditional Laamb wrestlers from Grand Yoff Mbolo Training Center, an affiliate of the LionHeart Initiative in Dakar.

A little known fact abroad, MMA are not entirely new to West Africa.  A local martial art, often referred to as traditional wrestling (known as “Laamb” in Senegal and “Sineta” in Mali) has reportedly been practiced since the 14th century.  Traditional wrestling, which includes striking, clinch fighting, and grappling, is one of the region’s most popular distractions and the national sport of Senegal, where it draws larger crowds than any other sport or attraction in the country. This Senegalese national obsession hasmajor cultural significance, including a spiritual dimension, and for many underprivileged young men, it offers the only chance to earn a good living.  Desperate to lift themselves out of poverty, despite numerous challenges and austere training conditions, many wrestlers train for numerous around eight hours everyday in the hopes of someday making it to the top and being able to support their families.  Introducing MMA to West African youths with the help of talented mixed martial artist like Bacar Baldé will undoubtedly open new doors for these young men, whose hard work, discipline, and dedication is seldom matched by athletes in other parts of the world.

This project contributed to LionHeart vision to lift deserving and talented athletes frompoverty 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.

MUAY THAI GUERRILLA ’16 by Baba Sakho & Dany Njiba

MUAY THAI GUERRILLA ’16 by Baba Sakho & Dany Njiba

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In November 2016, Baba “Babs” Sakho took Muay Thai, the world’s most effective striking style back to his homeland of Senegal, in support of the LionHeart Initiative to develop multi-dimentional MMA fighters in the region. Baba used his 12 years of experience competing and coaching to develop the striking skills of MMA fighters affiliated with the LionHeart Initiative, as well as exhibit Muay Thai to a new audience. Baba has a competitive record of 12-3, and served as an instructor at Puteaux Scorp Thai in France, where he coached fighters who are now kickboxing Champions of France and Europe, and Muay Thai World Champion.

Babs who was joined by his best friend and teammate Dany “The Dog” Njiba, a Muay Thai World Champion and Champion of France, has a fight record of 39 wins, 1 draw, and 5 losses. His recently earned titles at 71 Kg include:
2015 – AFMT Champion of France
2015 – IFMA World Champion
2016 – WBC National Champion

Born of parents from the Democratic Republic ofCongo, Dany was born in France where he started with Kickboxing and eventually transitioned to Muay Thai. Without means to pay for sports dues, he often changed sports activities, and eventually found Kickboxing and fell in love. He later transitioned to Muay Thai which he practiced for two years before joining Baba Sakho at Puteaux Scorp Thai.

This project contributed to 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.

LIONHEART 2016 MMA FIGHT NIGHT

LIONHEART 2016 MMA FIGHT NIGHT

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On 15 July 2016, profesional and amateur Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters came together in Dakar, Senegal in an effort to promote the world’s fastest growing sport. Local talent joined by foreign fighters from the USA, Costa Rica, France, the United Kingdom, and Thailand participated in one of the first major regulated MMA event in the small West African country.

The MMA event attracted numerous professional Traditional “Laamb” Wrestlers  and several hundred local spectators who the time were exposed to modern MMA. Most fights had commentators explaining the techniques and positions over the sound system. GoorFit Fighting Championship was produced by JK&J, and promoted by Radio Live SN and 2STV media networks. This event brought local attention 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.

 

ALL in for AFRICA ’16 by Seth Hamilton

ALL in for AFRICA ’16 by Seth “Braveheart” Hamilton

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Seth Hamilton, a professional MMA fighter and BJJ Purple Belt, led a group of martial artists participating in All in for Africa ’16 in Senegal. This project included MMA exhibitions in local communities, seminars, training sessions, and the team’s participation in LionHeart’s GooR FiT show, an MMA event open to the public, featuring MMA, grappling, and traditional Laamb wrestling, as well as hip-hop by prominent Sénégalese rappers.

The team comprised of MMA fighters from impoverished communities in the Western Hemisphere, the concept itself is intended on demonstrating how people who come from meager means can still impact the world with their talents. Team members were from Costa Rica and East St. Louis, Illinois USA.

“The All In For Africa team is multicultural, talented, and driven to use its talents to make the world a better place. Their surroundings may suggest unmovable walls and high hurdles, but yet they intend on rising about it all, proving that poverty, violence, and ethnic barriers can be overcome, and we can work together to make a difference” – Seth Hamilton

An experienced BJJ Instructor with a background in Muay Thai, Jimmy joined the team from Coco Beach, Costa Rica where he runs a non-profit Academy from which he offers free BJJ classes to local children in an effort to keep them away from drugs and crime. The other group comes from East St. Louis, IL, including four kids from the Xtreme Kombat Academy BJJ competition team. They are all white belts who have started this last year, but they have learned quickly and already we have taken home hardware from a Submission Only tournament.  St. Louis itself had the highest homicide rate per capita last year in the U.S., and the majority of East St. Louis itself lives below the poverty line. East St. Louis is nicknamed “the City of Champions”, and circumstances do not hold our kids down.

Tawan “Toxic Waste” Williams runs the Pathways leadership program for inner city middle schoolers and high schoolers in East St. Louis where he helps kids develop the academic and life skills necessary to become successful adults. He has been training MMA for a less than a year, but he brings a lot of heart to the team.

Devin “Destroyer” Adison, 15 years old, started training at age 10, practicing Tae Kwon Do & BJJ for several years before switching to MMA just over a year ago. He now trains kickboxing, boxing, and BJJ at American Top Team Evolution in St. Louis. He also trains no gi BJJ at 10th Planet Jiu Jitsu in O’Fallon, Illinois. He has competed in several local BJJ tournaments, winning three.

DaJuan Burton, also 15 Years old, began his martial arts training at the age of 9 with Tae Kwon Do and BJJ. He made the transition to MMA just over a year ago. He trains BJJ, boxing, and kickboxing at American Top Team Evolution in St. Louis as well. He has not competed in any tournaments yet, but he is excited to have his first experience in Dakar.

 

LIONHEART 2016 DAKAR OPEN

LIONHEART 2016 DAKAR OPEN

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The LionHeart 2016 Dakar Open is the first international and formally ran Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ) tournament ever held in West Africa. Audacious BJJ practitioners representing BJJ and MMA teams in seven countries, spanning four continents, had an opportunity to face off against each other, as well as against local competitors from Senegal. The Dakar Open is set in an exotic land where an indigenous form of grappling has endured for over 600 years.

LionHeart 2016 Dakar Open Dakar Open competitions are key to the development of BJJ on the continent, particularly in West Africa, by shining a light on this newly introduced art taking root in Senegal. As a cornerstone to develop multi-dimensional mixed martial artists, BJJ is a crucial component of the Lion Heart Initiative’s
intricate scheme to introduce Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in West Africa, leading to competitive MMA circuits and economic opportunities for dedicated athletes.

 

 

 

2016 DAKAR OPEN results:

No-Gi Debutant
Gold: Julien Mahieux (France)
Silver: Ousmane Sagna (Senegal)
Bronze: Momar Ka (Senegal)

No-Gi Advanced
Gold: Alan Jennings (USA)
Silver: Boubacar Diallo (Senegal)
Bronze: Moustapha Diop (Morocco)

Gi White Belts
Gold: Ousmane Sagna (Senegal)
Silver: Alassane Niang (Senegal)
Bronze: Julien Mahieux (France)

Gi Blue Belts
Gold: Boubacar Diallo (Senegal)
Silver: Aziz Fouda (Senegal)
Bronze: Ashriel King (UK)

 

Gi Purple Belts
Gold: Lamine Diedhiou (France)
Silver: David Baker (Germany)
Bronze: Musa Conteh (Thailand)

 

 

 

TUFF in DAKAR ’16 by KOA Team

TUFF in DAKAR ’16 by KOA Team

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Tuff in Dakar held from 10 – 15 March 2016 was the third KOA/Big Brothers project in West Africa. After executing “Rollin’ in Dakar” to introduce BJJ to Senegal and “Steadfast in Dakar” in 2014, KOA Team led by Professor Kelly Grissom continued on their mission to develop BJJ in West Africa.

On this latest trip, KOA was joined by three other Black Belts, including Kenneth Brown, Scott Salb, and Chris Colley, as well as Joc a blue belt, who all selflessly gave their time, money, and energy to support the LionHeart vision. This team brought an unprecedented level of BJJ skill and experience which undoubtedly benefited Senegalese jits. The project was held in conjunction with the 2016 Dakar Open, and included seminars and focused training sessions with our Senegalese partners, as well as an exhibitions to promote the gentle art. Tuff in Dakar was documented by LionHeart partner Isaac Kesington, better known as Genghis Con, a cuttingedge filmmaker responsible for some of the best MMA docu-series on the internet.
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.

 

 

 

 

 

BJJ WITHOUT BORDER ’16, by Ibrahima Samba

BJJ WITHOUT BORDER ’16, by Ibrahima “Brams” Samba

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Ibrahima Samba, aka Brams is a Brazilian Jiu jitsu (BJJ) Black belt from Brazilian top Team Canada under  Fabio Holanda, who in 2016 became a BJJ instructor for the National Army of the United Arab Emirate.  A French and Senegalese national, Brams lived in Montreal when he began contributing to the LionHeart Initiative in Dakar, Senegal as a BJJ purple belt in early 2014.

After Brams pioneering efforts to develop BJJ in Dakar in 2014, he returned in January 2016 for a month to continue my work, armed with a better curriculum, instructional videos, and more advanced drills. Later making the curriculum and instructional videos available to the more advanced BJJ practitioners in Dakar upon his departure. In 2016, he observed a notable evolution, but still felt the skills were somewhat rudimentary and needed refinement in order to sharpen techniques. In this vein, the BJJ without Borders ’16 project focused mainly on the experienced students Brams had worked with two year earlier. He also observed indications of a local BJJ culture taking root; however, it was largely due to LionHeart contributors traveling to Senegal to teach and share their passion for the sport. Consequently, he strongly felt this endeavor needed a long term strategy with planning and consistency to avoid rushing the development of BJJ in Senegal.

By 2016 in spite of limited means, local BJJ practitioners pitched in money to rent a mat room where they collectively trained. Although the gym was simple, it met their basic need and provided a locale where everyone could train together and helped develop a core group of loyal BJJ guys. Overcoming tensions with other schools and local martial arts “politics”, this core group continued to train and grow. These dedicated BJJ guys included motivated white belts, newly promoted blue belts, and a few purple belts who were eager to share their experience. It should be recognized that Senegal is a place with a strong martial arts and sport culture, where locals train in judo, karate, kung fu, sumo, wrestling, boxing, capoeira, and many others. Brams believed that to ensure the success and growth of BJJ in Senegal, practitioners needed better structure and the eventual support of the International Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Federation (IBJJF), as well as continued efforts to offer seminars and organize tournaments. His hope still is to someday soon an official BJJ team, sustained efforts to organize tournaments, a local federation under the IBJJF, high-level promotions, and eventually local partitioners competing on the international scene.

On his own initiative back in January 2014, Brams had began what would be later known as “BJJ without Borders”.  Shortly after he began teaching in Dakar, the LionHeart Initiative contacted him and proposed a partnership, which has since endured and led to the substantial growth in BJJ in Dakar. For several months in 2014, Brams taught every day, developed a solid curriculum, and used a sustainable “train-the-trainer” approach. His strategy to identify a core group of BJJ practitioners, gave them a solid base, and enough knowledge to create a sustainable long-term solution to grow BJJ in Senegal and paid huge dividends. Brams’ contributions and his collaboration with the LionHeart Initiative were directly responsible for the first blue belt promotions in Senegal. During his initial LionHeart project, he received substantial support from the Senegal Judo Federation and prominent Judo figures, such as Master Alassane Thioube, without whom he could not have succeeded.