The world champion South African cage fighter Danie van Heerden’s career is in pieces because of a racist posting on Facebook.
Van Heerden has also received death threats and has lost R150 000 since comparing Zimbabwean fighter Elvis Moyo with a character from the movie Planet of the Apes on Thursday.
Van Heerden (29), the brother of South African boxing hero Chris, has been indefinitely suspended by organisers of the local Extreme Fighting Championship (EFC) after he posted a photo of Moyo next to one from the film on Facebook.
Although he deleted it “just 30 seconds later”, the post caused a outrage, with various other fighters and fans taking Van Heerden to task.
According to Van Heerden, the post was dumb, but it was meant to be part of the usual pre-match war of words.
“It was all part of the trash talk, an attempt to rev things up before the fight,” Van Heerden said.
“Me and Elvis are actually good friends and we’ve been going at this for months.
“He has called me a dog and said I live in my brother’s shadow, but I accept it’s all part of the game. As part of our contracts, EFC pays us bonuses if we hype the match up and ensure that there are people at the fight.”
According to Van Heerden, he realised almost immediately that the post might “appear insensitive”.
“It was up for just 30 seconds before I removed it, but it was too late. Somebody had already taken a screengrab and then it was chaos.”
Van Heerden, who lives in Vereeniging, immediately drove to Moyo’s gym in Johannesburg to apologise.
“Initially, he was annoyed, but I tried to explain that I really hadn’t meant it in a racist way. He shook my hand and said it was okay.”
But Van Heerden was informed by EFC organisers that he had been stripped of his title and that Andrew van Zyl will fight Moyo in his place.
“I’ve been preparing for this fight for three months and it’s probably cost me close to R100 000. I would have fought him [Moyo] for R50 000, but now I have to tell my sponsors that I can’t fulfil my contractual obligations.
“The most disappointing thing is that seven years of hard work has gone down the drain.
“I realise it was a dumb thing to do, but it wasn’t meant as racist. For seven years, I worked hard to get this title and now one stupid mistake has cost me everything.
“I’ve been there since the first EFC competition in the country in 2009 and I’ve never said no to a fight that had been organised at the last minute, nor have I complained about the prize money. I would’ve hoped that they [the EFC] would have showed the same loyalty.”
He has also received death threats.
“I don’t let that bother me because people like that always have big mouths until they’re standing in front of you.”
Van Heerden will this week appear before a disciplinary hearing.
“It could be the end of my cage fighting career, but I won’t stop fighting – even if I have to go box again or go wrestle somewhere.”