Cork MMA: Frans Mlambo eyes Copa Combate prize

Cork's Patrick Lehane earned a spot for the Ireland in the eight-man event
Cork MMA: Frans Mlambo eyes Copa Combate prize

Corkman Patrick Lehane earned a spot for Ireland in the Copa Combate this weekend, with a triumphant victory in his professional debut in August. His team mate, Frans Mlambo will now represent the tricolour in Miami next Sunday.

ON SUNDAY, Combate Global hosts its fourth annual Copa Combate.

It’s a one-night, eight-man, $100,000 Grand Prize MMA tournament. Eight bantamweight fighters, representing eight different countries, battle it out in the toughest tournament in sports.

If this sounds similar to the early UFCs, that’s probably because Combate Global is owned by the same guy who created the UFC in the early 1990s.

Combate Global CEO, Campbell McLaren, also the co-founder and creator of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has been described by New York Magazine as “the marketing genius behind the UFC,” while Yahoo Sports said he “knows more about the sport than just about anyone in it today.”

“Since we launched Copa Combate in 2017, it has become the most prominent place to represent your country in the most challenging type of tournament in sports, and this year’s field of fighters looks to be our most competitive and most exciting yet,” said McLaren.

For the first time ever, Ireland will be represented in the Copa Combate, thanks to Corkman — Patrick Lehane.

The SBG Cork fighter made a spectacular entrance into the professional game in August of 2021.

He represented the tricolour in a four-man European tournament where each of the other participants were veterans of 10+ professional bouts — a tall order for the man from Mary’s Street, who was making his professional debut.

Against the odds, Lehane was ultimately victorious and earned Ireland a spot in the end-of-year Copa Combate. Since then, he has moved to 4-1 as a pro, marking Lehane as one of the hottest prospects on the Irish MMA scene.

As Lehane is not himself a bantamweight, he passed the spot to another Irishman.

Enter Frans ‘the Zulu Irishman’ Mlambo. Mlambo will be the first fighter in history to represent Ireland in the Copa Combate tournament.

Frans 'the Zulu Irishman' Mlambo.
Frans 'the Zulu Irishman' Mlambo.

The 30-year-old, South African-born fighter, who immigrated to Dublin when he was 11 years old, is no stranger to representing Ireland in battle, having won a gold medal at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation world championships in 2015.

His professional career has seen him fight in Brave CF, Bellator FC and more recently FEN, where he is the reigning bantamweight champion.

Mlambo has notched eight of his 10 career wins via TKO or submission and will enter Copa Combate on a two-fight win streak. He’s also a long-time sparring partner of one Conor McGregor.

The one-night tournament will take place in the bantamweight (135 pounds) division, and feature reigning Combate Global world champion David ‘The Black Spartan’ Martinez (6-1), who will represent his home country of Mexico.

Joining Martinez in the tournament field will be Kevin Cordero (12-2) of Spain; Leo Muniz (6-1) from the US; Frans ‘The Zulu Irishman’ Mlambo (10-5) of Ireland; Jose ‘The Mercenary’ Zarauz (22-8-1) of Peru; Cristian ‘El Scorpio’ Barraza (7-3) representing Chile; Luciano ‘El Aguila’ Ramos (8-6) of Argentina; and Pierre ‘The French Hawaiian’ Daguzan (6-5) of France.

The Copa Combate tournament’s quarter-final stage bouts and semi-final stage bouts will each consist of one, five-minute round, and the championship stage bout will consist of three, five-minute rounds.

Combate Global, previously Combate Americas, is the premier Hispanic MMA sports franchise, rapidly becoming the number two sport after soccer for Spanish-speaking fans worldwide.

It is the only MMA property regularly airing on broadcast television in both the US (Univision) and Mexico (Televisa). In 2021, Combate Global partnered with CBS Sports to distribute its live shows in English in the US on Paramount+.

The company’s programming is available in over 70 countries in Europe, Africa and elsewhere globally.

Nielsen research indicates that an astounding 91 percent of Combate Global viewers in the US are not regular viewers of other MMA content, demonstrating that Combate Global has garnered a new MMA audience with its World Cup-style, country vs. country-style competition. Each year of Combate Global action culminates with ‘Copa Combate,’ the toughest event in sports, and the most coveted destination for representing one’s country.

While Patrick Lehane’s Combate Global debut in August was shown live in Ireland on Eir sports, subsequent events since have been tough for Irish fans to watch live. However, for this event, you will be able to purchase a PPV link via Facebook on the Combate Global page for €4.49.

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