RISE of LIONS ’17 – Senegal, by D’Juan Owens

D’Juan “Dirty South” Owens is a highly experienced pro-MMA fighter, with a record of 26 professional fights, and a commited supporter of LionHeart’s vision to develop MMA, as means to create opportunities for combat sports athletes in Africa.

In that vein, D’Juan offered free MMA seminars to martial arts teams, as well as self-defense courses to local communities in Dakar, Senegal from 13 to 15 March 2017. D’Juan currently lives in North Carolina and fights out of the MMA Institute in Richmond, Virginia USA. With no previous martial arts or wrestling background, D’Juan began training MMA at the age of 23 while serving in the United States Marine Corps, after he was inspired by watching The Ultimate Fighter. In spite of many challenges, D’Juan stuck to his training and was unexpedly thrusted into his first amateur fight replacing an injured teammate. D’Juan traveled to Russia and Peru to compete in MMA, and on his own initiative later traveled to Africa to use his talent to make the world a better place. A conscious warrior, D’Juan’s love for Africa took him on missions to Uganda where he taught Jiu jitsu, MMA, and self-defense seminars. He organized his seminars at schools, youth centers, religious institutions, and gyms across the country. The focal point of his self-defense seminars were gender-based violence prevention, and once the technical portion of his self-defense seminars ended, he held group discussions about situational awareness, domestic violence, and common misconceptions about sexual violence.

“If you’re not ACTIVELY engaged in the dismantling or disrupting of the system that created the circumstances that you’re striving to improve, then you’re NOT serious about the revolutionary work” – D’Juan Owens

As a veteran of XFC, Titan FC, and Inca FC, D’Juan spent most of his professional career taking on fights as an underdog, and more often than not prevailing over crowd favorites. D’Juan is credited with beating UFC veteran Dustin Pague and TUF contestant Ran Weathers, as well as wins over Bellator fighters Jeremy Myers and Ian Rammel.

D’Juan attended the LionHeart 2017 Dakar Open where he and French pro-MMA fighter Sebastien Gueit showcased the sport in 3-round MMA exhibition.  This MMA super-fight is designed to demonstrate the close relationship between BJJ and modern MMA to the local audience which otherwise was never exposed to competitive MMA.

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.