From refugee camp to MMA champ

Matthew
Matthew Gourlie
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Keita looks to defend crown at XCWFC 50

Dauda Keita poses with his title belts after a fight in North Battleford.

Dauda Keita was born in the middle of a war.

He figures being a fighter is in his blood.

Keita will be in the main event Friday when he fights Moose Jaw’s Rodney McNabb to defend his Xtreme Cage Wars Fighting Championship lightweight title at XCWFC 50: Redemption (7 p.m., Mosaic Place).

“When I grew up I was a stubborn kid,” said Keita. “Where I came from, life is not easy there. Life is hard there. You have to fight for survival. Everything you want, you have to fight for it. Food. Everything.”

Keita was born in Liberia in 1990, a year after the First Liberian Civil War began.

“My mom tried her best to get us out of (Liberia) and I started to live my life in a refugee camp,” said Keita. The family fled north to Guinea and Keita lived in a refugee camp for nearly the first 17 years of his life.

Conditions in the camp were hard. He described five people sleeping on the ground on a bed made out of tarpaulin, rain coming into his room while he slept.

“Even though we get supplies of food, it’s not all of the time,” said Keita. “And if we do get supplies of food, it won’t last long. When it runs out . . . we’re starving. Which means we have to get in the bush and hunt for animals. We have to live on animals. It’s tough.”

Keita and his family emigrated to Canada and settled in Moose Jaw five years ago. The 22-year-old moved out on his own a year after they arrived and settled in Saskatoon where he still lives.

“Coming to Canada pretty much saved our lives. I really appreciate that. Thanks to Canada. Thanks to God and God bless Canada,” said Keita.

The life of an immigrant isn’t easy, but Keita said that compared to what he left, he has no complaints.

“It was like taking me from hell to heaven,” said Keita.

“Here you might not always get things that you want, but you do survive. You live, right? It’s a free country. I love Canada.”

Keita has only had four mixed martial arts fights, but he’s won them all.

He expects a tough fight against McNabb who is older and more experienced.

“I know for sure that this fight is going to be tough — tougher than the other fights I have had,” said Keita. “This guy has been training for a long, long time. He’s been doing it for years and years. I’ve been doing it for seven or eight months.

“None of that scares me. I’m just going to go there and do what I have to do.”

Keita is 5-10 and will fighting at 155 pounds.

“I can kick. I like to stand up and fight. I like to take the fight on the ground,” said Keita. “I heard he is a very good judo guy, but I’m not afraid of it.”

Keita is eager to challenge himself against McNabb. He is also excited to compete in front of his mother for the first time. He is expecting a large cheering section of friends and family as he makes his MMA debut in Moose Jaw.

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Canada, Liberia Guinea Saskatoon

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