Irshaad Sayed has spent time living in Thailand, Hong Kong and Singapore but the Asian MMA veteran and former Ruff bantamweight champion is now fighting in his native South Africa and has a bout booked for next month.

Sayed will be taking on Oumpie Sebeko at EFC 39 and looking to extend a six-fight winning streak which dates all the way back to 2012. He’s already won three fights out of three for the biggest promotion on the African continent and was in line for a title shot.

The belt is currently the property of undefeated champion Demarte Pena and a title fight between the two fighters has been the subject of much speculation in South Africa but Sayed explains why it won’t happen just yet.

“The fight with Pena was originally scheduled to take place in June in Angola which is his home country but because of some unforeseen circumstances it got pushed back to July. However I had to decline fighting in July because I observe the month of Ramadan.”

Pena’s record currently stands at 10-0 while Sayed is 9-2 but the former has spent his entire career competing for EFC while the latter has been tested against some tough fighters from places like the Philippines, Thailand and China.

A fight between the two seems inevitable but first Sayed will be going up against Sebeko on May 7th. It’s a fight he will be expected to win and a fight he firmly expects to win.

“When EFC informed me I’ll be fighting Sebeko I went online to check him out. He has a decent striking game but nothing I haven’t faced before however he has an extremely weak found game and I plan to exploit this,” he told ROUGH.

Sayed had initially been booked to face Nkazimulo Zulu in a catchweight contest but the flyweight was injured in training so Sebeko stepped in to replace him. The 26 year-old thinks this is another matchup which might happen in the future and doesn’t rule out the possibility of dropping down a division.

“I’m always open to a super fight vs Zulu and I think it may be one the fans would like to see at some point. 125 would be a hard cut for me but who knows what the future has in store?”

Sayed’s good run of recent results has coincided with a move to Singapore where he trains full time at Evolve MMA. The former Muay Thai champion won the Ruff title a few months after making that move and feels it has had a positive impact on his career,

“I feel that I’ve become more of a well rounded martial artist since joining Evolve. At first I relied heavily on my striking but since working with all the world champions at Evolve I’ve become a well rounded athlete.”

EFC 39 is taking place in Sayed’s hometown of Cape Town and having spent the vast majority of his career competing in Asia he enjoys being able to perform back in the place where he first started out as a kickboxer.

“I really enjoy coming home to compete. I get to see all my family and friends. I’m really blessed to have this opportunity.”

It means that Sayed has to spend time travelling back and forth between Singapore and South Africa every time he fight but he says that is a small price to pay for being able to fight in his homeland while training at one of the top camps in the world,


“I do all my training at Evolve MMA in Singapore and we have world champions from all disciplines including Muay Thai, BJJ, boxing and wrestling. We have a great team but closer to the fight I come train in Cape Town, to acclimatise and spend time with my family.”

The vast majority of the mixed martial artists on the Evolve MMA fight team are signed with either ONE Championship or the UFC but Sayed felt the time was right for him to try and prove himself with the fast growing South African promotion.

“I was always keeping my eye on EFC since they launched. As they expanded and landed TV deals and big sponsors joining the promotion became more appealing, not only because it’s my home country but also from a career perspective.”

Sayed won the Ruff title in his final fight for the Chinese promotion but from a personal perspective he feels claiming the equivalent belt with EFC would be an even greater achievement,

“Every win is special. The Ruff title was significant because of the sheer population of China but being EFC champ is closer to my heart.”


Pena has a title defence booked but assuming the champion can remain undefeated for a few more months Sayed expects to face him sometime in 2015.

“I definitely want to fight Pena later this year. He is scheduled to fight Cedric Doyle in the mean time and I’ll fight the winner of that fight.”