RISE of LIONS ’17 – Uganda, by D’Juan “Dirty South” Owens


Pro-MMA fighter demos a BJJ technique to student during a MMA & grappling class as part of humanitarian work for Africa

American pro-MMA fighter D’Juan “Dirty South” Owens demos a triangle to a group of students in rural Uganda

The Lionheart Initiative’s most recent project “Rise of Lions Uganda” was wildly successful. We completed four MMA seminars, and six self-defense seminars in our most recent of three trips. Our MMA Seminars were hosted by the “University of Pain”; the premier gym in the capital city of Kampala. Our self-defense seminars were held at Master Lee’s Tae Kwon Do gym in Kisugu. Our self-defense seminars consist of the instruction and drilling of grappling based techniques, and discussion on gender-based violence, domestic violence, and situational awareness. Our MMA seminars consist on striking, wrestling, and jiu jitsu techniques. Additionally, we teach the blending or transitional points between these skills. Uganda had a strong kickboxing scene; and a lot of local kick boxers are enthusiastic about learning MMA. Local promoters are planning a MMA event in 2018, so there’s essentially race to become as well rounded as possible in terms of martial skill. Each of our MMA seminars were scheduled for two hours but wound up going well over four action-packed hours. The LionHeart Initiative is planning to return to Uganda in 2018 and hold even more seminars.

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.

American pro-fighter poses with african children in Uganda while offering free MMA, BJJ, and kickboxing classes

American pro-MMA fighter D’Juan Owens in the midst of the next generation of African fighters. This is MMA4Africa!!!

“Self-defense is not a sport; and it’s not about attempting retaliation. Situational awareness, in addition to confidence and competence in performing physical techniques are small tools in comparison to GLOBAL cultural transformation when it comes to gender-based violence prevention” – D’Juan Owens

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.