Undefeated Democratic Republic of Congo enigma Gunther Kalunda will face Brazilian Jose Da Rocha for the interim welterweight title at EFC 73 at Sun City on September 8.
Reigning champion Dricus du Plessis has declined the fight against both top contenders Kalunda and Da Rocha with valid reason, and it has been decided that the best course of action is to institute an interim title.
Du Plessis is unable to compete on African soil due to his scheduled title defence at the European MMA promotion, KSW. In addition, he turned down the challenge from Kalunda (5-0), saying he feels he needs to amass a larger record.
The double division champ also turned down the fight against Da Rocha, an opponent he beat previously (Da Rocha stepped in on short notice).
His focus now is to defend his KSW title in October, and in his absence an interim champion and a contender he will not be able to avoid, will be crowned.
"As Dricus has grown into a prolific athlete, so too have the potential opponents and talents that are eyeing their shot at dethroning him," EFC VP Talent Graeme Cartmell said.
"The welterweight division is a pressure cooker of guys at the top, and with Dricus currently not available, we have to relieve the pressure with an interim title fight."
Undefeated in both his amateur and professional MMA career, Kalunda is a dangerous man. Having only ever gone the distance once in his EFC career, he holds an impressive 75 percent finish rate evenly spread between TKO and submission victories.
After his most recent bout, a clinical and destructive performance at EFC 67, the TapOut Academy standout called for his rightful shot at the coveted title.
A Judo blackbelt, Karate champion and bolstered by one-punch knockout power, he feels now is the time to follow the footsteps of fellow countrymen Champion Dalcha and Igeu Kabesa, and become that nation's third EFC champion.
Kalunda is not short on confidence, first calling out Du Plessies before issuing a warning to Da Rocha: "Dricus is a good fighter, but he probably didn't accept to fight me because a loss against me will bring him down."
H added: "I'm going to beat him [Da Rocha], kick his ass like a f***** b*** in the first round. I'll make Africa proud!"
Da Rocha made his debut under tough conditions, facing champion Du Plessis for the title on just seven days' notice. The Brazilian took the challenge head-on and suffered a debut loss, but with full training camps behind him, he has proved his pedigree with back-to-back victories in which he decimated his opponents.
His 23 second walk-off knockout of Cameron Pritchard and highlight reel submission finish of Pupanga Tresor sees him earn his shot at EFC gold.
Da Rocha has made it clear that his goal is the chance to avenge his short-notice loss against the champion. Should he succeed, his taking of the interim title will make his name one that the champion, Du Plessis, will find impossible to ignore.
"I was expecting to fight for the real belt. I hope Dricus doesn't run away after I win this one," Da Rocha said. "[But] right now my focus is on Kalunda."
Also at EFC 73, African heavyweight boxing champion, Zimbabwe's Elvis Moyo, takes-on MMA powerhouse Jared Vanderaa from the USA. These two top contenders are in the hunt for another shot at EFC heavyweight gold, and will leave nothing to chance when they collide.