EFC: How Africa’s MMA Juggernaut Became a Major Force in the Fighting World

EFC: How Africa’s MMA Juggernaut Became a Major Force in the Fighting World

Byron Pillay
June 24, 2023 at 9:56 AM
  • Extreme Fighting Championship was formed in 2009, drawing inspiration from the Ultimate Fighting Championship
  • EFC has produced a host of talented stars over the years, many of whom have gone on to compete in the UFC
  • The biggest MMA promotion on the African continent, EFC has attracted big sponsors and broadcasters over the years

For the past 14 years, the Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) has entertained fight fans across the African continent and beyond.

As Africa's biggest MMA promotion, the EFC has provided plenty of excitement and action-packed moments over the years.

But where did it all begin? Sports Brief takes a look at the 14-year history of the EFC.

EFC, Sport, World, South Africa, Africa, History, Cairo Howarth, Graeme Cartmell, SuperSport, Dricus du Plessis
From humble beginnings in 2009, the EFC, led by Cairo Howarth, is the biggest MMA promotion in Africa and a major force in the international fighting world. Image: Anton Geyser/ Byron Pillay
Source: Original

Forming the EFC

The EFC was founded in 2009 by brothers Cairo, Silas, and Calvin Howarth, along with Graeme Cartmell.

The Howarths are still the owners of the EFC, while Cairo serves as the President. Cartmell is currently the Vice President of Talent and Matchmaker.

The Howarths were great admirers of the UFC and wanted to create an African-based MMA promotion company.

From EFC 1 and beyond

The first event hosted by the organisation took place at the Coca-Cola Dome in Johannesburg on November 10, 2009.

In 2011, the EFC started hosting events in other major cities in the country, including Cape Town, Durban, and Pretoria.

EFC’s first television deal

In 2013, EFC signed television broadcasting and streaming deals with media organisations worldwide.

In 2016, they signed an exclusive African broadcast deal with Kwesé. At the time, EFC became the first big sports property to sign with Kwesé.

In 2019, the organisation expanded its broadcasting reach across the continent. As it stands, EFC has broadcasting deals with Multichoice - SuperSport, SABC Sport, and over 20 of the largest free-to-air and pay-TV channels across Africa and beyond.

Winning awards and attracting sponsors

As the biggest MMA organisation on the continent, it was only a matter of time before big brands took notice.

In 2017, Samsung and Adidas signed on as official partners; in 2022, American brands Ignite and M2Bio Sciences also got on board with the organisation.

The EFC brand has also attracted the attention of the Sport Industry Awards. The EFC was voted Sport Brand of the Year in 2014 and 2015.

EFC’s first female fight

2015 also saw the organisation host the first fight between two female athletes. South Africa’s Danella Eliasov took on Hungary’s Zita Varju.

Eliasov emerged victorious with a first-round TKO.

EFC, Sport, World, South Africa, Africa, History, Cairo Howarth, Graeme Cartmell, SuperSport, Dricus du Plessis
Danella Eliasov picked up a win over Zita Varju in 2015 in the first female fight in the EFC. Image: Ruby Wolff / EFC WorldWide
Source: Original

UFC signs EFC stars

When you compete for the biggest organisation on the continent, you are bound to attract international attention.

That was the case in 2014 when the EFC Heavyweight Champion, Ruan Potts, was signed by the UFC. Potts was the first fighter to move to the UFC, but by no means the last. Numerous big-name stars who started in the EFC have gone on to compete overseas.

Dricus du Plessis is arguably the most high-profile star to make the switch and is currently ranked fifth in the UFC’s Middleweight division.

EFC’s historical events

Speaking of Du Plessis, he was one of the stars to compete at EFC 50.

Held at Sun City in 2016, the event showcased some of the promotion's brightest stars, including Sindile Manengela, Luke Michael, and Elvis Moyo. Du Plessis faced off against another legend of the EFC that night, Martin ‘The Punisher’ van Staden.

EFC 100 in December 2022 was another historic event that saw some of the organisation's iconic athletes competing. There were two championship fights on the night, as EFC 100 attracted the biggest audience in EFC history.

A bright future for EFC

With over 200 of the world’s best MMA athletes exclusively contracted to the EFC, there’s no doubt that the promotion will continue to deliver hard-hitting action to a passionate fanbase for years to come.

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Byron Pillay
HOD- La Liga I Bundesliga I French Ligue
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