Call Him, Dana: Phumi Nkuta

Phumi Nkuta CFFC
Phumi Nkuta Credit: Cage Fury FC

For those following regional MMA, Phumi Nkuta has been a standout talent for a while now. “Turbo” has held flyweight gold for Cage Fury FC, one of the larger East Coast orgs, though he’s been competing as a bantamweight of late. His record sits at a perfect 7-0 as a pro.

We did a little Q&A and a closer look with a fighter who will hopefully get the call from Dana White and co. soon.

Getting into MMA

“I was flipping through channels one day and saw Ken Shamrock vs Tito. I knew who Ken Shamrock was from WWE as a kid but I’d never seen him fighting in MMA before. I didn’t even know what MMA was. I was hooked ever since at the age 12” – Nkuta on his introduction into MMA.

Amateur career

Nkuta started his MMA journey at the end of 2016. Nkuta did the right thing with the amount of fights he took and the number of years spent as a amateur. He competed for nearly three years and had five fights. Of those five fights, he went 5-0 with two finishes. His last two fights he won the Triton Fights and the NYFE flyweight titles.

“Not to be cocky but just that I can hang with the top guys in the world.” – Nkuta on his biggest takeaway from his amateur career.

Pro debut

Nkuta had an incredible opportunity to kick of his pro career fight for Bellator. He fought Adrian Haly who was 1-0 as a pro and had twice the amount of amateur experience. CFFC debut

Nkuta had a breakout performance here. Yes, he fought for Bellator but the fight wasn’t televised. This fight was against Ben Coyle who was making his pro debut but had a 6-1 amateur record. Nkuta treated him as an amateur. “Turbo” used his wrestling and grappling to dominate this fight. He showcases a little striking throwing in twos, going to the body, and moving in and out. Nkuta when he got the takedown was all over Coyle. Coyle couldn’t even move because Nkuta was following him around just floating on top. After a dominant round one Nkuta won with a kimura in round two. It was a fantastic introduction into the pro ranks.

“Having my first fight for Bellator was a great intro to the feeling of being on a big show. Dealing with level of professionalism and the bright lights was cool man. Had me nervous for sure but when I made that walk I felt comfortable all over again. As far as the fight though. I prepared well but had a bad weight cut. I was a young man, and didn’t have the knowledge at time. So I was dominant, showed I’m high level, but I still didn’t put on the performance I wanted to.” – Nkuta on pro debut

CFFC title fight

After a 2-0 start in his pro career, CFFC saw enough to give him an early title fight. It was against Albert Trujillo who was an established fighter and the champ at the time. It was a big step up in competition for Nkuta.

Nkuta treated this fight as if he were the champion because he dominated this fight bell to bell. Although he did score two knockdowns it was all wrestling and control from Nkuta. Nkuta showcased top-notch wrestling. Not only the speed but Nkuta was chain wrestling, cutting the corner, running the pipe, and created a lot of knee traps to get the takedowns. When I say he was all over Trujillo it was like a glue trap. He was all over him and as Trujillo got back up he went right back down. Impressively this was the first time Nkuta went into championship rounds and fought at the same pace as he did in round one.

“First… I don’t think people realize how good Alberto is. He’s high level. Till this day he’s the highest level guy I’ve fought. Good technique, was in insane shape, mentally tough. He’s coming out of Alliance MMA so he’s part of a high level camp. I had a great camp but fighting him almost brought the best out of me. As far as what it felt like to win? Winning that fight is another reason why I’m as confident as I am. My third pro fight. I get multiple knockdowns, (one of them being a spinning elbow) endless takedowns and fought hard for 20 minutes. And then spit bars? I always have a lot to work on but after that fight, I felt like I could beat anyone in the world. Especially at Flyweight.”


To close out 2021 Nkuta had a 5-0 record defending his CFFC flyweight title twice. In his fight with Miguel Junior Diaz he frankly just beat the tar out of him. Nkuta used footwork, speed, and technical wrestling ability to get Diaz down every round. More than the wrestling it was the top pressure and the relentless ground and pound. He even busted up Diaz in the fight. He got into the crucifix position a few times and that’s where he got the TKO stoppage in round four. All the damage just added up and Nkuta scored his first TKO stoppage as a pro. In his fight with Jason Eastman, it was tougher but still a one-sided fight. Nkuta had to go through a few submissions but he was one step ahead in every spot. He showed a little more striking with some bodywork and was finding his rhythm. It was again his wrestling and dominant grappling that won him the fight.

Contender Series Rumor and Retirement

Nkuta was ready for a UFC opportunity as a reigning champion on UFC Fight Pass. In his fight with Eastman Nkuta ended up breaking his hand that required surgery. Unfortunately for him it was around the same there was rumors of a Contender Series fight. It being so bad of an injury Nkuta had no choice but to sit on the shelf for a bit. Having to wait for surgery his hand ended up healing improperly. They had to re-break it to actually fix it and Nkuta was in a cast for months. Not to mention all the rehab he had to do once he got the cast off. With the injury and the trouble getting fights Nkuta took it as a sign to walk away from the sport.

Once Nkuta got the cast off he was back in the gym helping guys like Aljamain Sterling, Merab Dvalishvili, Matt Frevola and others. With encouragement from his manager and teammates, Nkuta decided to step back in the cage after over a year and a half layoff.

Comeback Fight

For coming back from a long layoff and a gruesome injury Nkuta was back to his dominant ways. His opponent, Cleveland McLean is a known veteran with a lot of experience. It was all Nkuta in this fight treating the vet like a rookie. Nkuta used his wrestling and brick-like top control to cruise to a submission victory. In this fight there were a ton of moments where he was in a dominant position. He landed a lot of GNP and went for submission but it was a good fight to shake off any ring rust he had.

At this point, Nkuta should’ve been considered for the UFC. Nkuta was 6-0 with a few good wins. He was already wanted by the UFC at a point so it was time for a straight UFC contract.

Bantamweight Debut

Nkuta took on a fight up a weight class at Bantamweight against Hunter Starner. Although not experienced Starner is a strong wrestler with a lot of talent. Nkuta was significantly smaller but that didn’t make him shy away from fighting his fight. Nkuta still used his wrestling and did get a few takedowns as well. We actually saw Starner takedown Nkuta. From there Nkuta was never complacent and did a great job scrambling back up. His striking also looked very good moving in and out, going to the body, and letting his hands fly in short bursts. It was a fight proving again he’s a UFC-level fighter.

“First I gotta give a shout out to Hunter Starner. He was tough, skilled and super strong. Like I’m talking farmer strength strong. He took on a very experienced opponent when he didn’t have to at all. Biggest takeaway for me is that I can handle the mental part of the game and that I truly am ready to fight anyone at any time at any place. A lot of people talk about it but some are actually about it. Fighting a week and a half notice fighting up a weight class… A lot of people would never. Especially with everything riding on the line like it was for me. I had everything to lose. Undefeated record, reputation in the sport. It was a risky scenario. But I’ll fight anyone, anytime at any weight. Cause that’s that the best do. I am that and I showed that. As far as what the takeaway should be for everyone else… Stop sleeping on my striking.”

Nkuta is 100% ready to make the jump to the UFC. He’s at the point where it’s hard for him to get fights and he has to move up to bantamweight to actually get fights. He’s 7-0 as a pro and 5-0 as an amateur. He’s never lost a fight and I don’t think has ever lost a round. His wrestling is high-level. Although his striking isn’t on display as much as his wrestling it’s looked good. He has the speed, shot placement, and his hands are clean. With his wrestling his jiu-jitsu is lockdown. Nkuta is relentless with his pressure, GNP, and transitions. He’s so light on top but is also glue-like giving no space. You don’t want Nkuta on the inside because he will bully you around.

When Nkuta beat Alberto Trujillo he proved he was UFC level then. Also being a champion for a promotion like CFFC that’s on UFC Fight Pass is a big deal. Not just one title defense but two. Nkuta can even take fights on short notice not in his weight class and still perform at a high level. Training with the likes of Merab Dvalishvili, Matt Frevola, and Aljamain Sterling at LAW MMA makes it even more puzzling why he isn’t in the UFC. I easily see Nkuta as a top 15 flyweight. He’s 28 in his prime now and still the best is yet to come with him. Stop playing around and call him Dana.

Nkuta’s message to Dana White

“In the ring, on the mic, and even in the booth, no one can talk the talk like me. No one can walk the walk like me right now. I’m a star. I’m the best Flyweight in the world. I’m the best in the business. I’m the best for business and I’m ready. So let’s do business bossman!”

Comments from the media and teammates

“The type of talent and the type of work ethic Phumi has, it can’t help but make everyone around him want to be great as well. Iron sharpens iron and he’s as sharp as it gets.” – Teammate, Dennis Buzukja

“They don’t call him Turbo for no reason. Phumi is FAST, accurate and strong everywhere. He can compete with anyone in the UFC right now, and I’m truly surprised he hasn’t been signed yet.” – Teammate, Matt Frevola

“Absolutely, there’s probably nothing I could say about phumi people haven’t heard already; I just genuinely believe he’s the best flyweight on the planet right now. I think Phumi’s a Ferrari and the UFC wants to treat him like a Toyota Corolla; if they put him in there right now and see what he’s capable of I think they would do tremendous business with one another. He’s skilled in the cage, on the mic, and the most important part is he’s just a good dude. In my opinion, he’s simply the best flyweight walking on earth right now, and it’d be a tragedy if he didn’t get his opportunity to prove it.” – Teammate/Coach, Steve Lee

“The perfect way to describe Phumi is “Best kept secret” or “champion behind closed doors” since the ufc is slow to sign up and let the inevitable unfold which is him becoming a world champion” – Teammate, Nazim Sadykhov.

“At this very moment in time, MMA prospect Phumi Nkuta could very well compete with any UFC-ranked flyweight. Put him on the top of the list of prospects who should already be in the UFC. Training at LAW MMA with some of the UFC’s biggest stars, Nkuta’s future is certainly bright & hopefully he can kickstart his UFC journey sooner rather than later.” – Media member, Jake Noecker

“Phumi Nkuta has been one of the top talents at 125 for a long time. I know he got away from the sport for almost 1.5 years but even before that, he should’ve had a chance to fight on DWCS. In my opinion, he should be signed right away. His striking and ground game are both very solid plus he trains with former champion Aljamain Sterling and future champion Merab Dvalishvili. For me, it is a no-brainer to sign Nkuta. He is 28-years-old and will only be better in the next few years. Plus the fact that he is undefeated brings a little more hype to the whole situation in my opinion. Sign him and give him his deserved opportunity, please!!” – Media member, Marcel Dorff

“I had the pleasure of watching Phumi Nkuta fight in person back in December. Going up a weight class and accepting the fight on just one week’s notice, Phumi scored a clean decision victory. His past opponents hold a combined record of 35-16, and his cardio has proven to hold up late into fights. Phumi isn’t just the best fighter out of LAW MMA who isn’t in the UFC, he may very well be the best fighter currently unsigned. In a weight class that needs new blood, Phumi could very well be a key addition to the top 15 of 125 pounds and make a run for the title. Signing Phumi outright is a move long overdue, and making him fight on the Contender Series would be a disservice to him and the promotion. Sign him Dana!” – Media member, Patrick Danna

“Nkuta might not have the highlight-reel finishes that would catch the UFC’s eye but his performances should speak for themselves. Since returning from his injury, he’s picked up right where he left off despite stating how hard it has been to get opponents on the regional scene. He might not be the kind of guy that the Contender Series is looking for but when you look at someone who could step up to the UFC and compete at a high-level from the jump, he ticks a lot of boxes. He certainly has an aura of confidence about him and when you consider the level of training partners he shares the mats with, it’s hard to imagine that next level of competition being something he can’t adapt to.” – Media member, Kyle Dimond