By Douglas Mazune
Kickboxing is an escalating craze in Kampala whose passionate fans are yet to grasp the sport so well.
Ugandan kick-boxer Ronald Mugula knocked out Hungarian Andras Nagy much to delight of his home fans at Kyadondo.
We caught up with the Canada-based Ugandan kickboxing trainer Phillip Ndugga for an informative interview.
Q: Kickboxing is getting very popular in Uganda but fighters and officials appear to have issues with understanding their own sport. How knowledgeable are you about kickboxing?
A: I just retired from competitive MuayThai-kickboxing two years ago in Amsterdam and I have been involved in martial arts for over 20 years.
I have had an opportunity to train with the best K1 champions in the world such as Mr. Perfect Enersto Hoost and Remy Bonjasky. I am currently based in Canada where I teach kickboxing, Tae Kwon Do, MuayThai.
I have a fourth Degree black belt in kickboxing from the International kickboxing Federation - Germany 8th Khan from MTBD. I am a Kru (teacher) of Muaythai, I work with Heavens Fitness, an elite fitness centre in Calgary, Canada.
Q: Mugula knocked out Nagy. What do you make of Mugula’s tactics and future in the sport?
A: First, I would like to congratulate Mugula for his exemplary performance. I was following him via newspapers and watching some of his training clips on the internet.
He did display great skills especially his hands - boxing skills, the boy has been training hard.
He had a great camp, very well prepared and organised for the fight. I spoke with him on the morning of the fight and he sounded focused and confident.
I was very lucky he took my call but to my understanding he was not talking to anyone outside his camp.
Q: Can anybody who can kick and punch jump into a kickboxing ring?
A: It’s not that simple and sadly that’s what many people in Uganda believe. Kickboxing is a combination of Western styles of boxing mixed with martial arts kicks.
There are several styles. One of them is full contact kickboxing where fighters are not allowed to kick below the waist.
They can only punch and kick above the waist, they also wear long pants. The second is kickboxing with low kicks- very similar to MuayThai, here low kicks are allowed but no sweeps, clinching.
Then Muay-Thai kickboxing, the traditional sport of Thailand, also known as the Art of 8 limbs - that is punches, kicks, elbows and knees.
Clinching and sweeps are allowed. It is a deadly art, a very good form of self defence and mandatory in the Thai Army.
Q: Which of these styles suits an upcoming country like Uganda?
A: We are very fortunate here in Uganda due to our genetic make-up.
There is great potential except we lack coaching skills. With proper coaching and training we can do all of them. In the Golola-Szamboki fight they did kickboxing with low kicks.
Q: Why is it that Nagy had yellow strings on the arm but Golola had none?
A: Andras Nagy is an upcoming fighter - a yellow pradjeet is the rank in Thai boxing, very similar ranking to a Tae Kwon do yellow belt but of course different requirements for each sport.
Zsamboki didn’t have anything but he is better. Golola also didn’t have anything because he has not been graded in Muay Thai.
Q: Do you think Golola still has a future in kickboxing?
A: You never count any one out until they hang up their gloves. With proper training and focus he could come back. A good management team would make a difference.
Q: What’s your take on World Kickboxing Federation (WKF) that awards world title fights at will?
A: I know that WKF exists but there are other authorities like International Kickboxing Federation (IKBF) based in Germany and K1 from Japan among others.
All these are global bodies and I don’t think they have any representatives here. The Uganda Kickboxing Federation can affiliate to some of these organisations. There is also the World Muay-Thai Council.
Q: What do you make of Golola’s performance as compared to the pre-fight hype?
A: Firstly, his conditioning and cardiovascular efficiency left a lot to be desired. In a professional fight of that calibre getting tired is not an option, by the third round he was already showing signs of exhaustion.
Q: What do you make of coaches in Uganda?
A: Uganda has some of the best boxing coaches in the region, a short trip to Kampala Boxing Club down town - Nakivubo would earn you one. In terms of kickboxing I have not yet connected with any local coaches.