The current EFC Lightweight Champion, Wentzel "The Animal" Nel is preparing to defend his title for the first time at EFC 08 on the 14th of April. The Toughen Up team caught up with him to shed some light on his career so far and his plans for the future.

TU: For how long have you been fighting?

WN: I have been doing MMA for just under 3 years and I'm still enjoying every minute.

TU: How did you get into MMA?

WN: Started for fitness and wasn't planning to compete, because I started just before my son was born, but once I was there and got to learn all the various disciplines I was hooked. I knew that I had to compete and it was at that stage that I told my wife that I want to be the best. I have always watched UFC and loved the sport, but to actually compete is a whole different experience, one to which I am addicted.

TU: As a professional MMA fighter in South Africa, what frustrations do you face?

WN: There simply isn't enough time. Working full time doesn't allow me to train as much as I want.

TU: In your experience Is it possible to pursue a full time MMA career in South Africa?

WN: Currently if one doesn't have a high cost of living then yes, you could pursue a full time career, but if you have a family to support and monthly expenses it's difficult. At the moment there is not enough money in South African MMA to cover a family-man's monthly expenses.

TU: In which fighting styles have you trained?

WN: I come from a Wrestling and Judo background, but have started training with specialist coaches in 10th planet jj, boxing, kickboxing and Muay Thai, as I work towards becoming a complete mixed martial artist.

TU: What has been the most challenging obstacles you've had to overcome in your MMA career?

WN: As mentioned previously, time is my biggest obstacle, as I have a full time job, a wife and a son, friends and a grueling training regime, all of which need my time. There are just not enough hours in the day to give my undivided attention to all of them. Usually one is neglected, so I'm lucky to have such a supportive wife and understanding friends who cut me some slack when my schedule is hectic.

TU: Who has been your toughest opponent thus far?

WN: Definitely Terrance Griessel, he is a tough guy with a never give up attitude and a high threshold for punishment.

TU: Do you admire or look up to any specific MMA fighters past or present?

WN: My all time hero is and will always will be Randy Couture, he is a Legend! Current UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar is another fighter I admire. He always seems to be the underdog, a tag I regularly wear, but he proves people wrong time and time again. I especially enjoy his fighting style and attitude.

TU: How has your life been affected by winning the EFC lightweight title?

WN: I have the added pressure to ensure that I stay at the top and it's a pressure that I put on myself, because I am only truly a champion once I've successfully defended my title. Over and above that, a lot more people know who I am, which is great. I love talking to and meeting the fans because that is what it's all about. Without them none of this would be possible.


TU: Tell us a bit more about your overseas training camp.

WN: Its a trip overseas for me to focus only on training, because I work full time and don't get to train for 8/9 hours a day like most of the title contenders at EFC08. I decided to go overseas, because firstly, I got the opportunity to go and secondly its time for me to get mentally prepared! When I return I can get back into the hype, but while I'm overseas I won't be on the social networks and I won't have work stress etc. I can just focus on the task at hand. I can get great time in to work on my game plan and when I'm back I can just fine tune everything I've worked on. It's a great experience and I'm really looking forward to it.

TU: What are your thoughts regarding your upcoming fight against Costa Ioannou in EFC 08?

WN: It's going to be tough. Costa is a worthy opponent, well rounded and comes from a great camp. I have plenty of respect for him and his trainers, but I don't plan on losing my title. This fight could go either way, but if all goes according to plan I will be standing at the end of the fight with my hand raised and my belt around my waist.

TU: What's your favorite way of finishing a fight?

WN: I don't have a favourite way of finishing a fight. If I can finish each fight differently then I am happy, because then I know that I am transforming into a complete MMA fighter!

TU: What has been your most memorable moment in the cage and why?

WN: Losing against Dave Mazany. That loss helped me to get refocused. I had too much going on in my head that was affecting me negatively. I have now cleared my head, refocused and have realized that one small mistake can cost you.

TU: In a recent interview with Toughen Up, "The King" Leo Gloss mentioned that he would be interested in a rematch after you beat him at EFC 3. Would you be interested in another fight against him?

WN: When our paths cross we will fight again, perhaps our paths will cross if he is ever the proud owner of the featherweight title. Maybe I'll see him there. Who knows? Only time will tell, but for now it's not on my list.

TU: What are your plans or goals for 2011 and the future?

WN: To defend my title as many times as possible. I have two more overseas trips planned for the year. I still have so much I need to learn. I want to grow and I want to become a complete mma fighter. I have already made heaps of progress and I am definitely heading in the right direction. Hey and who knows, perhaps if I play my cards right I might even be able to hold two titles.

TU: Is there anything else you want to add or anyone you would like to thank?

WN: I would like to say a big thank you to all my Sponsors:

Nick and Steve from Finstate - especially for their contribution towards my overseas trip.

Additionally, I'd like to thank Muscle Works, Affliction, Speedz, Auto Rustenburg, Mongrel, TSI Construction, Cabinet Guru, Max Mouthgaurds and MMA wear.

All my coaches Darryl Fought, Hardy Mileham, Mark Delafield, Nick Stanissis and Jacques Rossouw, a big thanks to my wife Jackie for all her support and hard work, and thank you to Toughen Up for the interview and their time. 

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