Johannesburg – South Africa’s Chad “Superman” Hanekom appears to be in a much better place ahead of his cracking BRAVE CF main event fight this weekend.
The number-two ranked BRAVE CF Middleweight will face South Korean MMA star, In Jae La at BRAVE CF 66 in Bali, Indonesia hoping to secure a shot at the coveted 185-pound golden strap.
Hanekom failed to secure the BRAVE CF Middleweight belt when he lost to Brazil’s Daniel Pereira in South Africa at BRAVE CF 31 in 2019.
As per Hanekom, the fight took place during a difficult period in his life, and he had not expected his problems to have such an impact on his professional career.
“There were a lot of things going on in my life, and I did expect it to affect my performance, but often, if things are not sound in your personal life, then intrinsically, things don’t go as anticipated,” says Hanekom.
BRAVE CF 31 saw Hanekom endure his first-ever stoppage loss in his professional career – a result that he feels has helped him on his journey.
“I think it was supposed to go that way. If I had not learned those lessons, I would not have been where I am now, both in life and martial arts.
"I am grateful for that experience, as hard as it was because you need to feel certain things to grow.”
Since his defeat at BRAVE CF 31, Hanekom has gone on a two-fight win streak with wins over Austria’s Dominic Schober and Poland’s Mateusz Janur, respectively.
After his win over Janur at BRAVE CF 61, Hanekom – who has an impeccable record of six stoppages in seven wins – pleaded with the BRAVE CF matchmakers to let him fight the In Jae La who is riding a three-fight win streak.
Coming into BRAVE CF Jae La had a huge target on his back.
Out of twelve fights, he has only ever lost once in his professional career.
“Mudtank” has a strong wrestling base with 90 percent of his wins coming via decision. In his BRAVE CF debut, Jae La lived up to his reputation of being a strong grappler and wrestler when he dominated Hanekom’s compatriot, the dangerous Mzwandile Hlongwa over five rounds in the main event of BRAVE CF 58.
While Hlongwa is the mercurial striker, Hanekom could offer Jae La a greater challenge as he is a more polished mixed martial artist with powerful hands and a strong grappling/wrestling foundation.
Adding to the spice of this fight is that “Superman” towers above his Asian opponent by more than ten centimetres. He also has a larger frame, as Hanekom can shift to Light Heavyweight if he chooses.
“In Jae La knows what is coming, and my fans know, too,” says Hanekom.
“I am the most well-rounded fighter in the 180-pound division. There are things that In Jae La is good at, and there are things that I'm good at, but we will see who has the will, dominance, and intention to implement what they want on the night.”
Despite Russia’s Abusupyan Alikhanov being the number-one BRAVE CF Middleweight, Hanekom feels that Saturday’s main event is the unofficial title fight.
“In the context of the division, I see this as the title fight. It’s irrelevant right now what the title picture looks like or what the ecosystem of the middleweight division is. The belt is vacant, and I am on a two-streak, so in my mind, the winner of Saturday is the uncrowned champion. And that will be me,” added a composed and focused Hanekom.
“Thank you to all my fans, family, and friends back home for the energy, love, good vibes, and support. I have prepared well, and I've been meticulous with everything I have done. I am prepared to go out and put on a good performance,” concluded Hanekom.
BRAVE CF 66 takes place on Saturday.