Inside Mac Mansion with Frans Mlambo

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Peter Carroll spent a week at the Mac Mansion in the lead up to Conor McGregor UFC 189 title shot against Jose Aldo

Frans Mlambo will fight Abvlav Tolesh in the opening round of the IMMAF amateur world championships after spending two months at ‘Mac Mansion’ in preparation for the tournament and Conor McGregor’s UFC 189 championship date.

On my first day with the SBG crew back in May, Mlambo separated himself from the pack by breaking one of the rules of the household. Although there were no “refined sugars” allowed into the mansion, Mlambo had a birthday present to collect and his sweet tooth wouldn’t allow him to turn down.

“My girlfriend told me she was going to get me something, and straightaway I knew it was cake. She knows that I need a cake on my birthday or I’ll have a fit! But then she start telling me it wasn’t a cake so I didn’t know what to think. They wouldn’t deliver it either, so I had to go and get it. Low and behold, it was a cake.”

From the famed ‘Cake Boss’ stronghold in the Venetian, Mlambo admitted that it was a bit of risk taking it into the house, but in the end, both McGregor and John Kavanagh wanted to see the gift for themselves.

“Yeah it felt like it was a bit of a risk, you know? The lads, I don’t know if they were winding me up. I have a fridge in my room and they were like ‘bring it in to your room right away’. Then Conor and coach wanted to see it, we sang ‘Happy Birthday’ and everything in the end so it was fine.”

Mlambo is an avid Christian, which contrasts greatly with the rest of the crew in the house. A Seventh Day Adventist, Mlambo was an atheist up until two years ago when frenzied searches on the Internet lead him to God. Having been baptized last year, Mlambo spoke about the dynamic between him and the rest of assembled athletes, particularly John Kavanagh who has gone on record plenty of times speaking about the problems associated with religion in general.

“My coach knows how I am,” explained Mlambo. “We’ve had so many debates on the way back from fights. When I have to travel for a fight, my favourite time is when I have to drive back with John because most Christians don’t know enough to talk about these things with non-Christians.

“I don’t push it on people, but if I get a chance I will take it. The fact that I was such a strong atheist before, it’s like I’ve answered all of the questions that I used to have about it. He might say ‘well, Frans you know there were unicorns in the bible’, and to that I say ‘yeah, a unicorn is just an animal with one horn’. I had to find that out, I wanted to know why there was a unicorn in the bible too. Everything has an answer in the bible.”

Mlambo also spoke about the struggle he has between his faith and his career path, which he hopes will steer towards a life in MMA. The featherweight highlighted his life as a Seventh Day Adventist being a conflict in itself based on the fact that mass is celebrated on Saturdays – the day he usually fights on.

“I struggled with what I’m doing now when I first became a Christian. I’ve always fought, I was a boxer before I started MMA. For a while it didn’t make sense for me to be a Christian and a fighter. You can’t love your neighbours if you’re elbowing them in the face, right? I prayed about it for a long time, and I didn’t think that I had anything else I could do with my life really.

“Then, eventually, I felt that God was leading me towards this field, to do what I’ve already been doing. I think I’m starting to see my purpose when I have conversations with guys who don’t believe like John and Artem. We have spent hours going back and forth about these things. I think it’s my purpose to tell people about this in the fighting community. I don’t think they will hear it from anyone else if I don’t tell them.

“Another thing that I struggled with is the fact that most MMA fights take place on Saturday and that’s my Sabbath. As a Seventh Day Adventist, we celebrate mass on a Saturday. It tells you to ‘Remember to keep the Sabbath Day holy’ in the commandments, it’s the only commandment that begins with ‘remember’.

“That was a big reason I wanted to quit. I just try and focus on the fact that I keep most Saturdays as holy as I possibly can. It’s something I’m still battling with. The way I see it, this over here is a part of my growth in the sport and as a person. If I do well here I can reach more people with my message. It’s still tough for me though.”

Mlambo travelled to China recently to compete in his first tournament, and although it didn’t go exactly how he had planned, he is confident he has learned from his mistakes.

“China was great, and I found a load of fruit that I’d never tried over there,” laughed the fruit connoisseur of Mac Mansion. “Where I was, the people can never see the sky because it’s so smoggy. It was crazy. I think the tournament that I did over there will stand to me in Vegas though.

“I was undefeated at kickboxing back then and honestly, I thought I was going to go in and smoke everybody. In the first fight I thought I’d just go out and take it easy, but that ended up being my whole mindset and when I needed to step it up, it just didn’t happen. The fight was close, but I lost it and I was devastated after it. Now, I see what I’ve done wrong and I’ve grown from it. That was my first tournament, so I know what I need to do this time around.

“When I was watching the other guys in China, they were going at full clip in the first round and I thought that was stupid. Now, after how I did out there, I know that’s what I need to do this time around.”

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‘Black Mamba’ also discussed the privileged position he is in, preparing alongside McGregor ahead of the biggest fight of his career.

“The whole preparation over here has been crazy. There are moments when you catch yourself and you’re like ‘Holy shit, I just grappled with the first Irishman to ever fight in UFC.’ Then the next day you’re like ‘I don’t believe it, I’m training with the guy that’s going to fight Jose Aldo for the belt.’

“You forget how big this whole thing is because we’re living here, it’s our daily routine. We’ve been around these guys at home for so long, you just forget. I like to remind myself and step it up in training. There are no amateur fighters that have this kind of preparation and that’s motivating me. There are people in the UFC that don’t have these kind of camps.”

Finally, Mlambo commented on his chances of taking a world championship this week in Vegas.

“I’m doing rounds with one of the best fighters in the world, he’s about to become the featherweight champion, and I’m hanging in there with him. I just think if I can get really fit, nobody can beat me. I’m still working a lot on my ground game, but on the feet I don’t think anyone can beat me if I get fit.

“Having guys like Joey Breslin, Lee Hammond and James Gallagher over here is really helping me with my ground game. Once I have my ground game locked down and I’m really fit, I think it would have to be some kind of savage to beat me at the moment.

“I’m not being cocky. I know how hard I’ve trained and I know a few things that I do will come off when I fight. I’ve got a bit of power going on too. The training has been great so I know I’m going to be fully prepared.”

@PetesyCarroll

Check out all the editions of Inside Mac Mansion here

Peter Carroll is Severe MMA’s lead feature writer. He has been featured in many top publications and some rubbish ones too. He also writes for the Irish Daily Mirror and Vice’s Fightland.