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


pro mma fighter demos bjj technique to students in senegal west africa

Pro-MMA fighter Seth Hamilton demos use of knee-on-belly in MMA to students at a free and open seminar in Dakar

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

BJJ instructor look over students practicing bjj as foundation for MMA in africa

A BJJ purple belt from Costa Rica, Jimmy looks on as students warmup at the Senegal National Dojo in Dakar

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.

bjj mma and traditional laamb wrestlers take a group photo in dakar after exchange organized to advance the mma4africa movement in africa

American and Costa Rican MMA fighters cross-train at traditional Laamb wrestling, the national sport of Senegal.

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.


Email Us