Action based comic books tinged with humour are a staple amongst Nigerian youths.
These books have continued to inspire one of Nigeria’s fastest rising Mixed Martial Arts MMA talents Jackiel ‘Smiling Assassin’ Ayana whose seemingly playful but elite skillset inside the cage has endeared him to many fight fans in the country.
True to his aka, the light complexioned and fresh faced Ayana smiled his way to a hard-fought split decision win over Cameroon’s beastly wrestler Mohammed Ebale in the 64kg class of One Fight Ultimate OFU Fight Night held last weekend in Lagos.
The OFU Fight Night was Jackiel’s second outing in MMA:
“Sincerely speaking ofu fight night is one of the most classic combat sports events I have ever been to.
“The setting was unique. I met so many people, saw celebrities; it was a great opportunity to fight in the championship.
“Mohammed Ebale is a solid fighter, he’s really good on takedowns and he’s got power, speed but I hope to meet him in the octagon in the next ofu fight night.”
Growing up on the dusty streets of Portharcourt, capital city of one of Nigeria’s wealthiest states, Rivers, was challenging for Ayana, given the constant bullying he experienced in the hands of older boys.
On many occasions he was beaten up in school and on the streets, which prompted him to start learning the act of self defense.
“When I was younger I got bullied on so many occasions, school, church and where I lived.
“So I got into a lot of fight but still got beaten up so I stayed away from people for a long time not until I watched a Muaythai movie and that was when I started looking for a someone to teach me how to fight. I trained for a while before my coach said he saw so much potential in me and that changed my mindset.
“I started training for the money, the fame and for my name to be known worldwide.”
The road to actualising his dreams started rather on a sour note in Nigeria’s mini Olympics, the National Sports Festival, in 2018 in Abuja where he was, again, beaten in the first round of the kickboxing event.
Three years later, same competition in Benin, Edo State, the Smiling Assassin, this time around, matured n more confident, coasted to the final where he picked apart the then reigning champion, Godwin Friday, to claim gold for Delta State.
According to the 20yr old kid dynamite, his maturity and technical ability inside and off the cage stems from years of consuming comic materials:
“Comic characters are inspirational.
“They teach me a lot like Captain America, he’s skinny, weak and helpless but he never gives up and he became a super soldier eventually.
“Also comics make me feel cool like where I got my name ‘the smiling assassin’ the inspiration came from a character called Deadpool. He’s never serious, always playful but highly skillful with brain intelligence of 99 and 9.9%.
“I read comics a lot. It makes me less scared and I also use comics to like escape some harsh reality.”
Aside comics, family is also integral in Jackiel’s career:
“So this is the funny story. My mom never really liked me fighting and she didn’t like me getting bullied so she supported me in my training but she never knew it was going to be a career for me.
“She always said I should travel abroad when I was a kid but I wasn’t really good at school then and my dad never really liked me because I was bad at school, but my mom never gave up on me, supported me even when she knew I took this as a career.
“So am doing everything to make her proud and also let her know her efforts won’t go to waste.”
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