WATCH | The MTN Gladiators: where are they?

Where are our MTN Gladiators — like Granite, Fire and Sahara — today?

WATCH | The MTN Gladiators: where are they?

Where are our MTN Gladiators — like Granite, Fire and Sahara — today?

The MTN Gladiators was a Friday night institution from 1999. Everyone had their favourite. Whether it was Granite, Fire, Spider, Tusk, Sahara or Impi. But where are they today and what happened to this action-packed game show? Watch the video to find out.

The Origin of South Africa’s Gladiators

Much like other reality or game shows that appear on our screens, the MTN Gladiators did not originate in South Africa.

If you’ve seen the ESPN documentary, 30 for 30: The American Gladiators, there is one thing you can’t miss. The big bravado energy of John Ferraro, the one behind the American Gladiators. The idea in 1982 was to sell it as a movie concept. Five years later John Ferraro and the mysterious (almost untraceable) Dan Carr, signed a deal — not for a movie though, but for a series.

Several stations picked up the American Gladiators show. Its success roared beyond TV screens with things like toys, Nintendo games and more. As the upcoming Netflix docu-series Muscles & Mayhem: An Unauthorized Story of American Gladiators describes it: “it was one of the biggest spectacles on television with a meteoric rise and dramatic fall.”

But before the fall, global domination — with a show in every country — was the next move.

UK Gladiators started in 1992 (and will have a reboot late-2023). They hosted a special three-part series: the Springbok Challenge. South Africa lost but it was not the end, rather the beginning because in 1999, on SABC 3, South Africa got something to call their own: MTN Gladiators.

The rise and fall of the MTN Gladiators

The MTN Gladiators quickly rose to fame in South Africa with a cult following. For many watching, the muscles, agility and determination of the gladiators, turned these ordinary South African athletes into heroes. Action figures followed and their faces made it onto stamps, puzzles, biltong packets, pasta and so much more. There was even a CD.

Locally the show came to an end in 2001. And it’s hard to believe it lasted for only three years because the impact still stretches decades later. If you ask South Africans, who are now in their 30s or 40s, what they remember from TV back in the day, the MTN Gladiators remains a popular answer.

So where are the MTN Gladiators today? What happened to our heroes?

SLOW searched high and low to answer just this. Not only did we feel the punch realising the lack of footage available, but many of our favourite have left the limelight. We did however find a few. Go watch our latest video: South Africa’s MTN Gladiators — a then vs now analysis and relive the memories.