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Exclusive: PFL contender Frans Mlambo on surreal journey from winning $100,000 prize to landscaping

The last two years have certainly been full of ups and downs for PFL Europe star Frans Mlambo. Planet Sport looks back at his recent journey.

Frans Mlambo marked his MMA return with a bang as he defeated Rachid Haz to progress to the semi-finals of the inaugural PFL Europe tournament. 

The South African earned a decision victory over the Spaniard who was a late replacement for the injured Dominque Wooding.
Mlambo was out of the MMA scene for 19 months before his big return in Berlin, last stepping into the cage against Kevin Cordero back in December 2021.
On that occasion, Mlambo celebrated winning the $100,000 Copa Combate tournament - though little did he know that life was about to take a strange turn.
"The last thing I did [in MMA] was win a hundred grand," Mlambo told Planet Sport. "When you win a hundred grand, you don't get a hundred grand. I learned that the hard way.
"After paying all the bills and everything else, a few months have gone by and I didn't have any fights lined up. I needed to start doing something. I did a bit of landscaping before in the past and there was a guy who trained with us who has a landscaping company, so I started working with him. That's what I've been doing, and literally I've been doing that up until a few weeks ago.
"Especially now that it's summer, I always say that it turns from a job to a hobby. I love doing it anyway. But it did come to the stage where I had to work in order to keep training and everything else."
Mlambo, who boasted an impressive 13-5 record at the time, admitted it felt somewhat surreal to be without a fight and working as a landscaper.
"You're just working ahead and something just hits you," he said.
"A few years ago, back in 2015, this was when I was an amateur, I ended up winning the world championships. From there, I got talking with these guys from Bahrain. Long story short, we get over to Bahrain, we're signing on to the KHK team.
"It's a big deal. Khabib Nurmagomedov is on the team, Makhachev is on the team, I'm on the team, James Gallagher, a few other guys. They're building this big team and I'm just coming off amateur, starting in pros, I'm over sitting with royalty. I'm like 'I made it now and I'm only at the start of my journey'.
"Anyway, to do all that, we had to sign the contract for it. To sign this contract, I went to this lawyer's place who is another guy who trains with us. We're signing things with him, and at the time we took two pictures had a bit of ceremony, it was a big enough deal doing this whole thing.
"Fast forward seven years later, I'm winning. It's not like I'm losing, I'm winning. Have been ranked on Bellator, just won a tournament, I'm doing good, but still, I found myself sitting in this guy's garden seven years down the line, picking weeds just to survive. Seven years before that, this same guy was signing my s**t, it was a big enough deal.
"Anytime I think about this, I can feel the type of feelings I had in that moment. It was crushing. It felt like everything was against me. It just didn't make any sense why I should be in that position when I was doing good in what I do. It didn't make any sense.
"To be honest, that's all in the past. I feel good now."
Mlambo admitted that the entirety of 2022 had been fraught with similar blows in his personal life.
He added: "That's just one of many. It was literally continuous where for one whole year, s**t like that kept happening. People dying. I was in a 13-year relationship that ended just before everything was about to get locked down. It was madness."
The 32-year-old revealed that the experience has given him a whole different perspective, not only life but also his MMA career.
He said: "I'm looking at this from a whole different perspective. I just thought, I'm Frans Mlambo, I have all these skills. All I need to do is just keep doing what I'm doing, and I'll be fine, I'll get there eventually.
"That is just not how this works. You need to just grind extra and do extra. That's what I'm looking to go in there and do. I'm just going to go in there and do extra."
Mlambo will now be looking to go all the way in PFL Europe's bantamweight tournament. His next opponent will be Francesco Nuzzi as the two battle for a spot in the final.
Winning PFL Europe will bag Mlambo another $100,000 as well as a spot in the main PFL roster.

Photo Credit: PFL Europe

READ MORE: Exclusive: PFL Europe's John Mitchell on journey from rowing world championships to the octagon

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