Since 2018, Senegalese wrestling has been transformed from a traditional wrestling style performed by the Serer people, to a national sport that uses elite athletes to establish their name internationally.
More and more African wrestlers are looking to jump into MMA to make a living, but that dream is threatened by the increasing popularity of mixed martial arts in the continent.
In the past 50 years, Senegalese wrestling has grown in this West African country, attracting a significant number of male and female wrestlers hoping to make it big in the sport.
In Senegal, as in many other countries around the world, wrestling has been a game-changer for youth.
With the growth of professional wrestling in Senegal, off-season training has come to require large amounts of funding. The rewards also have become very substantial, now topping $50,000 or so per fight.
Dakar alone has over 50,000 young people who are training in the sport of Senegalese wrestling.
The sport has also given way to national celebrities with household names gained from their success in the sport.
As the sport transitions into becoming a truly global sport, it faces its largest challenge in Senegalese wrestling which is similar to the future of the sport.
MMA’s popularity growth in Africa has left Senegalese wrestling badly down. UFC is bankrolling the Senegalese wrestling market, making the sport a dominant category in Dakar.
Senegalese MMA athletes are increasingly the rule. The Senegalese fighting style is often partially fused with wrestling and it’s difficult to find an MMA fighter that doesn’t use a grapple, strike, or take their opponents down. And it’s not just Senegal–according to records of fighters in South African MMA as well as data from social media.
In 2019, Oumar Kane, who is the undefeated heavyweight champion from Senegal, announced that he was making a career switch to compete in mixed martial arts.
On December 17, Kane fought his first MMA match and defeated Sofiane Boukichou in Russia’s L-1. Kane is scheduled to fight with Ivan Romanov on October 9th.