No sport is older or more widely distributed than wrestling.
Those conversant with the history of wrestling would think of ancient Geek BCE, then Japanese Sumo wrestlers. For the more contemporary ones, WWE would come first to mind.
However, did you know wrestling was also a much-looked-out-for sport that still happens in Africa?
If you’re surprised, keep reading as IBIENE brings you a chat with Maxwell Kalu, a Nigerian who believes there are life-long lessons that wrestling teaches him. He is passionate about the sport and is doing all he can to give African wrestling international acceptability, after all, Africa was known to have had warriors.
IBIENE: How would you describe Maxwell Kalu?
Maxwell: A young(ish) man trying to make his mark on the world.
IBIENE: From a degree in Politics to carrying out roles in communications and now sports, we would like you to help us understand the puzzle.
Maxwell: Politics is power. It governs so much of our daily lives and I had always had a keen interest in it. I really enjoyed my degree.
From there it was almost a natural progression into communications. There is immense power in reputation – and the opportunity to work with business and political leaders on shaping their reputations massively excited me.
Communications convinced me of the power of media, I saw that directly.
African Warriors is beyond just a sports business. We are in the business of projecting Africa’s global image through the lens of sports. We are building the profile of traditional sports and helping beam that around the world. So, it just allowed me to express my love of media along with promoting Africa on a global level.
IBIENE: Why did you venture into combat sports?
Maxwell: Fighting is the purest form of human interaction. I have always been a fan of combat sports. When I was very young, I did karate and since then have practiced kickboxing. With African Warriors, I have the opportunity to express my love of combat sports and celebrate my African heritage.
IBIENE: What is your day-to-day like when it comes to running African Warriors, especially on a day when a fight is to take place?
Maxwell: There are a lot of moving parts on a fight day. Fighters tend to be big personalities, these are proud men, warriors, respected, or fighting for respect. So, we are working with a bunch of personalities and trying to keep them in check. On the back end, you’re thinking of how to keep the team in check, the production team, and other partners. It is just a bit of a “mad frenzy”. The key thing is to have a strong team. I am blessed to have a great team around me; people very keen on doing their jobs. Really, my role is to act as the centre of that. If I am lucky, I get to enjoy some of the fights but that doesn’t always happen as I am usually running around ensuring everything is going as planned.
IBIENE: What makes the African Warrior championship different from other forms of combat sports that people watch on TV?
Maxwell: This makes me think of my reason for starting African Warriors. Initially, I said that we were just going to be a Nigerian Mixed Martial Arts organisation. After spending more time on ground, I decided to focus on Dambe – an ancient sport steeped in tradition and culture. This is totally unique to Nigeria and can’t be replicated anywhere else in the world. Bringing something different to the marketplace allows us to punch above our weight in terms of competition and stand out. You can watch boxing or MMA anywhere; you can only come and watch Dambe at the African Warriors Fighting Championship.
IBIENE: How has the response been, especially when it comes to the acceptability of such a sport in the region (Africa)?
Maxwell: The response so far has been huge. In terms of the Nigerian response, we get so many people saying; I didn’t even know this existed, I am so proud to see our own traditional sport being promoted. We have had a great response from the north, the home of the sport where they are just happy that outsiders are taking interest in the sport and ultimately giving their boys a new avenue for building names for themselves, earning, and supporting their families.
I am also very proud of the international response we have had. We have had a huge response on the international level. Across our content, we have over 150 million views. In terms of interest in our content, the majority of people watching our content are coming from the United States, just say that even outside of Nigeria, and Africa, people are engaging with our content on a global level.
IBIENE: Any life lessons this combat sport has taught you?
Maxwell: Persistence. You can take punches, knocks, and fall down but it is only truly over when you give up. Entrepreneurship is not an easy path. Staying positive and persistent is the biggest and most important thing I have found.
Consistency; the best fighters are fighters who constantly improve their craft, who when they are not fighting, are training, when not training, recovering, when not recovering they are game planning. Staying consistent; always thinking about how you can better your approach and yourself.
IBIENE: What keeps you coming back to your roots?
Maxwell: Knowing where I come from and regularly reconnecting with that enables me to engage with the world around me with confidence. My surname ‘Kalu’ is a reference to Kamalu – the Igbo God of thunder. The men of my village, Ohafia, were famed warriors in ancient times. I come from powerful stock and take great pride in that. Whenever things get difficult, I remind myself of this.
IBIENE: Any message to a 10-year-old Maxwell Kalu?
Maxwell: Enjoy yourself. Problem no dey finish.
Do you have any question or comment? Do share with us in the comment section.