Oumar Kane and “Reug Reug” are two different personas. A man of few words and a fierce fighter trapped inside 265 pounds of muscle and power, the Senegalese heavyweight became an overnight sensation in MMA’s Twittersphere in his very first official bout, earning him a shot at Asia’s ONE Championship.
An expert in lutte avec frappe, a traditional form of wrestling from Senegal, Kane walked through his 2019 professional MMA debut against Sofiane Boukichou with wild punches and takedowns, forever changing his life.
“I have a new coach and so many people know me because of that win,” Kane told MMA Fighting through a translator. “Maybe people like what I’m doing, all the effort I’m doing right now. I trust God, that’s why so many people like me.”
Raised in a fishermen’s village just outside Dakar, Kane was always tied to combat sports since early age. The son and grandson of “good wrestlers” who represented Senegal in other African countries, Kane made sure he also represented the family in the Senegalese wrestling fields. But he didn’t feel pressured into the sport “because I know I’m a champion and should be a champion.”
“I know very well what I’m doing,” he said. “I was born in a very nice area in which people are fishing. I love it. Out of fighting, I used to be with children, discussing with them. We have good places you can come even if you don’t want to fish, you can stay there discussing a lot of things, like Senegalese wrestling, football, all other things.
“When I was going to school, for a small time I continued and tried to go do fishing job. It can be done together, fishing and wrestling, because it’s not professional fishing in big boats, just fishing to feed your family and have a little bit money, so it can be done with wrestling.
“Senegalese wrestling also used to happen at night time in Senegal for a period, and fishing can happen a whole year. That’s why when I was a fishing man I also started doing wrestling in a small organization.”
Being a fisherman wasn’t going to be his destiny. Instead, “Reug Reug” signed with ONE Championship and stopped fellow African heavyweight Alain Ngalani in his promotional debut, and he now returns Wednesday night to face Patrick Schmid, who replaced Mehdi Barghi on late-notice at ONE on TNT 1 in Singapore.
The transition to MMA was made out of love for competition and quest for greatness, he said.
“You can get a lot of money with Senegalese wrestling – they pay well,” said Kane, who added wrestling stars make more money compared to MMA beginners. Lutte avec frappe is bigger than soccer or any other sport in Senegal, he said, because “it’s a sport from us.”
“We can say that football and MMA comes from abroad,” he said. “Many other sports comes from abroad, like boxing, taekwondo, all those kind of things, [and] they belong to people from abroad. But wrestling, it is from us. For us, wrestling is No. 1. MMA is a good sport I like very much. As a fan of combat sports, I love doing combat sports as well, that’s why I’m doing MMA now. I’m not joking in MMA, I just came because I need the world belt. That’s what I’m going after.”
“So many people like [MMA] right now [in Senegal],” he continued. “Some people were watching it before, so everybody is happy now because they have myself, [KSW heavyweight Serigne Ousmane [Dia] ’Bombardier,’ so many younger boys are now training in the club where I train in Dakar. They are only waiting for a call to fight or sign contracts. So many boys are waiting, training night and day.”
On a roll after his TKO victory over Ngalani, Kane is “praying that I have good health that day and I’m praying God to give me the win” against Patrick Schmid on April 7.
“It’s a fight like all fights,” Kane said. “I will prepare more, more and more than what I’ve done before. What I’ve done to Ngalani, I will do something more to win. I want the fight to finish quickly.”