Quintin van Jaarsveld
Ex-South Coaster Ilana van Schalkwyk made a sensational mixed martial arts (MMA) debut for new promotion Parabellum Fight League at Uvongo Town Hall on Saturday.
The weekend’s card was the first for the newly-formed amateur promotion – headed by ex-Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) star Gary Smit – and proved to be a night of fantastic fights.
There were knockouts, submissions and wars, but it was Van Schalkwyk who stole the show as she scored a 40-second TKO win over fellow newcomer Isolda van Aarde.
The Smackworks fighter came out to a loud cheer as family and friends welcomed back the homecoming heroine.
Van Schalkwyk came out firing and dropped her opponent with a Conor McGregor-like left hand seconds into the featherweight fight.
Van Aarde showed heart to work her way back up from the bottom, but walked into a buzz saw in Van Schalkwyk, who made the most of her kickboxing background.
Continuing to push the pace, a swarming Van Schalkwyk threw a right high kick and followed it up with a fight-finishing left hand inside the opening minute of the contest.
The warrior women embraced after the stoppage, both being showered with praise after earning the respect of the fans.
“I couldn’t be happier about the outcome,” Van Schalkwyk told eHowzit.
“The hours of training has paid off and resulted in my hand getting raised in the end, which is an unbelievable feeling!”
The 28-year-old admitted to feeling the nerves as she stepped inside the cage for the first time, saying, “It was incredibly overwhelming but so exciting at the same time. I had no idea what to expect and the unknown can be quite daunting.
“Mentally it was very stressful; I like to be in situations where I am in control of the outcome and here the outcome solely depends on who ends up being the better fighter on the night.
“The nerves were high as I had an opponent that was much more experienced on the ground than I was, but I knew going into this that I had to do my best to control the fight to my advantage as much as possible and that was to keep it standing.”
While Van Schalkwyk is still new to MMA, she has the ideal coach in fiancée and EFC veteran Armand de Bruyn, one of the pre-eminent pugilists in the country.
“I started kickboxing when I was 19 but took a break from it and started again about three years ago. I did that not to compete, but just because I really fell in love with the sport and the type of training,” she explained.
“When I started training with Armand two years ago, I started to incorporate jiu-jitsu as well, but it wasn’t something I focused on much.
“I only really started to focus on my jiu-jitsu about four months ago, so my journey into MMA hasn’t been a long one, but I’m definitely excited to see where it takes me going forward.”
As a personal trainer, Westville-based Van Schalkwyk is always in peak physical condition, however, preparing for a scrap scheduled for three three-minute rounds is a different challenge altogether.
“Every sport has a different type of fitness,” she said. “As a trainer, I do a lot of high intensity workouts, but that doesn’t mean I’m fighting fit. It’s a completely different ball game, so I had to adjust my training the last eight weeks.
“Armand helped me a lot with my body conditioning as well as pushing my limits physically and mentally in a different way than what I’m used to.
“I considered myself as being in good fitness condition, but I needed Armand’s expertise when it came to the technical side of the sport and there he helped me tremendously. I’m still learning and growing every day and I think the growing process in the sport is limitless.”
As for her fighting future, Van Schalkwyk said, “For now, I want to focus on grading in kickboxing and jiu-jitsu, learn more, grow more as an athlete and enjoy each and every moment of the process.”