Themba Gorimbo had a breakout year in 2023, picking up his first win in the UFC, while being gifted a house by Hollywood and pro wrestling legend Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who had been moved by the Zimbabwean fighter’s story.
Gorimbo, who escaped war and poverty to make it to the UFC with just seven dollars in his bank account, then auctioned off the fight kit from his first win (over Takashi Sato) to pay for a water pump in his village back home.
Cageside Press caught up with Gorimbo at the 15th Annual World MMA Awards, where he was nominated for (and won) the Fighting Spirit Award for his selfless act. On the red carpet, he explained that he’d rather be an inspiration than a role model.
“For me when I shared my story, like I always say, to be a role model, it’s like seeking perfection. I don’t want to be a role model because I’m not perfect as a human being myself,” Gorimbo explained. “What I can be though, that I think I can do and I have the power to control is to be an inspiration to the people, that come from where I come from, and the kids that come without anything, that are orphans like I was.”
“I grew up without parents, my mother passed away when I was nine, my father 13. I had to grow up, hustle from a young age myself, with the help of my cousin, brother. It’s just the way life has been to me, and for me. I tried to share my story so that I inspire somebody, probably back in Africa right now in that similar position looking at life and thinking to themselves ‘there’s no means for me to make it in this life.'”
Gorimbo hopes that “when they look at me and my story, I want them to feel like ‘wow, if that guy can do it I can do it.’ That’s what gives me inspiration, that’s what gives me energy, that’s what gives me power to push every single day. And I’m going to continue to do so.”
As for the house gifted to Themba Gorimbo by The Rock, the welterweight, who fights Keifer Crosbie in February, is extremely grateful. Gorimbo also revealed to Cageside Press that he didn’t even sleep in the house until he returned to Africa and helped his family move to the U.S., a process delayed by having to secure visas for them. “When I came back, the first night, I was tired, because on the plane I was carrying the babies. The minute I got into the house I wanted to seep and rest so I could train the next day.”
“I’m always grateful to Dwayne Johnson for the things he has done for me. He didn’t have to, but he did it for me. That’s just trying to give me a head start in America. He’s given me a head start in America, and one of the things I want to do one day is try to give someone else from Africa a head start in the USA with the power of what I do in the cage, with the power of what I do outside the cage,” continued Gorimbo. “I believe it’s going to happen, one day I will give someone also a head start in the United States of America, like [Dwayne Johnson] did for me. And thank you my brother, [Johnson], I don’t know if you will see this but I’m very grateful forever, and it means a lot for me.”
Watch our full interview with UFC welterweight Themba Gorimbo above.