After World Championships Upset Team Sweden Coach Discusses Adapting For 2019

Pictured above: Steam Sweden’s Robin Roos, Andreas Gustafsson Berg and coach Jörgen Hamberg – via SMMAF|Photography Viking

The world’s number-one ranked nation in Amateur MMA will arguably host it’s most significant national championships in years as the Swedish MMA Federation begins preparations for its national team and a critical 2019 campaign on the international competition platform.

Taking place in the city of Vasteras on January 26-27, the SMMAF Championships will crown Sweden’s 2019 national champions and earmark gold medalists as primary picks for the renown national squad.

After producing a high volume of silver medalists between the 2014 and 2015 IMMAF World Championships, the nation secured its first international titles at the 2015 IMMAF European Open. From there, Sweden progressed to top the medal tables at all subsequent World and European championships across the next 2.5 years.

It was not until the climax of the 2018 event calendar, at the IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships last November, that Sweden and the rest of the world felt the presence of a major new force under the now unified IMMAF and WMMAA banner, as Russia triumphed and smashed World Championships medal records.

IMMAF.org spoke with Jörgen Hamberg, one of SMMAF’s decorated national team coaches, to discuss his perspective of the 2018 World Championships upset and how Team Sweden can regroup for 2019.

“We noticed that the biggest difference (at the 2018 World Championships) was the entrance of the wrestlers. Team Russia brought a team where all are great wrestlers and the game changed enormously,” coach Hamberg explained. “We had the wrestler, Andreas Gustafsson, taking silver this year (at senior middleweight). He failed only in the finals, against his shadow from Russia, Dzhamal Medzhidov. As coach I can see him dominant in wrestling against anyone else.

“Team Sweden has two reflections: one for the team and one for the sport of MMA. For the team, [Sweden] has to evolve its wrestling skills. To beat a wrestler you have to possess the wrestling tool to match and then add the rest of the MMA toolbox to combine and overcome.” 

In the IMMAF world team rankings, division rankings and pound-for-pound rankings, Swedish gold medalists ascended with their own brand of grappling prowess, showcased through past champions such as Cornelia Holm, Gabriella RingblomRostem Akman and Serdar Altas. Coach Hamberg believes that Sweden’s dynamic shifted in 2018 with more of the nation’s newest crop of domestic standouts and international representatives favoring a striker’s approach.

“We had the wrestler in Cornelia and others who were submission wrestlers and BJJ players making effective use of their skills in MMA. Sweden has been a pretty much a standup nation [in 2018] and was not fully prepared.”

For the first time in almost three years, Sweden was unable to secure a single gold medal, while junior flyweight Millie Eriksson earned silver in addition to senior standout Andreas Gustafsson, yet still a shock after Sweden had ruled supreme at the European Open just five months prior.

At the 2018 Worlds, Sweden’s athletes were eliminated by a diverse list of rival nations and skill sets, including Russia who have put the world on notice across the majority of weight divisions, bringing us to a pivotal moment in the Swedish team’s history as we are set to witness their 2019 response.

“The new era is that the Freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestlers are superior in physics and pressure in demolishing strikers and BJJ players on the ground,” coach Hamberg added. “However, the Russians appeared less aware of dealing damage, mostly offering pressure and positioning. This is our reflection on how the sport may evolve in the long term – will Russia develop to be more active on the ground and continue to prevail, or will the other teams learn to meet the wrestlers takedown and counter with better damage ratio?

“Every team has to be better wrestlers and better at avoiding takedowns to be able to handle the fight on the preferred terms. Swedish clubs are taking this seriously and will adapt to the new challenges. We are looking forward to year 2019 with our IMMAF family.”

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IMMAF – WMMAA Position on Members and Nazism, Racism and Criminal Violence

It has been brought to the attention of IMMAF- WMMAA that some MMA competitors in a member nation have been associated with Nazi groups promoting racism and violence.

The IMMAF- WMMAA leadership hereby expresses its horror at any association between participants of the sport of MMA and Nazism, and refers Members to our Statutes and Code of Conduct which clearly enshrine IMMAF- WMMAA’s opposition to racial discrimination and to criminal violence:

“IMMAF-WMMAA and its Members reject all forms and means of discrimination against individuals, groups of people, organizations or countries of ethnic origin, gender, language, religion…” [Chapter 1 Article 3]

It is the responsibility of National Federations not to tolerate or harbour as members those who promote or perpetrate such discrimination and hatred. It is furthermore the duty of a National Federation to be vigilant in its policing of such activities among its Membership. ‘Turning a blind eye’ or tolerance of Nazi activities can be viewed as aiding or abetting, and any Member Federation acting thus in breach of IMMAF- WMMAA values risks expulsion and termination of membership.

For clear understanding of IMMAF – WMMAA Member obligations, we refer you to Chapter 9 of the Statutes which requires a Member to “promote the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) at all levels, as a means to contribute to the positive development of society”

Members must “ensure their Statutes and bylaws contain the following provisions or language supporting these positions:

“a. the Member and its representatives reject all forms and means of discrimination against individuals, groups of people, organizations or countries based on ethnic origin, gender, sexual orientation, language, religion or politics.”

“Members are committed to comply [‘unreservedly’] with, and ensure compliance from its representatives, officials and athletes with, these Statutes, IMMAF Bylaws, IMMAF Competition Rules, the IMMAF Code of Ethics and the IMMAF Disciplinary Code and decisions.”

Further to this, IMMAF’s CODE OF CONDUCT demands the following among its core principles for behaviour and conduct:

3.3 Zero tolerance of discrimination and harassment

We are committed to a diverse culture. There shall be no discrimination as a result of race, ethnicity, origin, skin colour, nationality, religion, age, gender, language, physical appearance, sexual orientation or political opinion, or engagement in any kind of verbal or physical harassment based on any of the above mentioned or any other criteria

3.4 Respect and Dignity

We will treat everyone with respect and protect the personal dignity, privacy and personal rights of every human being


IMMAF President Kerrith Brown

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AXS TV Unveils “Friday Night Fights” With LFA 57, Headlined By 2014 IMMAF Gold Medalist, Jose Mariscal

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

Former IMMAF gold medalist Jose Mariscal (pictured above, left) will headline the upcoming card of LFA 57 on January 18 as part of the major new “Friday Night Fights” unveiling by AXS TV.

On January 11 AXS unveiled the launch of “Friday Night Fights” for 2019, beginning on Jan.18. with a four and a half hour broadcasting slot of original MMA and pro wrestling, the former being provided by standout professional MMA organisation, Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA).

“Legacy Fighting Alliance is the number one MMA promotion in the world for cultivating talent and delivering on the promise of watching tomorrow’s champions today. In the last two years, LFA has sent over 50 fighters to the UFC and we expect to create more legendary champions inside the octagon on AXS TV in 2019.”

LFA 57 takes place in Denver, Colorado, for its first live AXS event of the year that sees undefeated featherweight prospect Youssef Zalal (6-0) taking on 2014 IMMAF gold medal winner Jose “Chepe” Mariscal (8-3) in the main event.

Before making his professional transition, Mariscal remained undefeated as an amateur MMA contender with a run that culminated in being crowned amateur world champion at the inaugural IMMAF World Amateur Championships in Las Vegas.

Competing in the men’s lightweight division, the now 26-year-old Mariscal secured gold for Team USA with four triumphs across five days in the 155lb bracket, besting standout opposition from Romania, Poland, the UK and Sweden, all via first round stoppages.

Since Mariscal featured in the pioneering first IMMAF World Championships, the premier proving ground for amateur mixed martial artists has continued its rapid evolution, with leading safety standards and enhanced competition gear such as amateur size gloves and shin guards developed by Green Hill, in addition to the ever increasing depth of global talent.

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IMMAF Standouts Set For Irish Supershow At Bellator 217

 By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

Some of Irish MMA’s most impressive amateur veterans will be in action on the highly anticipated card of Bellator 217, taking place in Dublin on February 23 and showcasing a vast crop of the nation’s best home grown talent.

Among the wave of Irish standouts to have joined the Bellator organisation back in 2018, and who are now set for the Feb. 23. fight night, Northern Ireland’s Leah McCourt features as the event’s most decorated amateur veteran and will take on her third professional outing against Hatice Özyurt of the Netherlands.

At the international level McCourt took the women’s amateur MMA ranks by storm, first winning the 2015 IMMAF European Open tournament title at lightweight before entering as a featherweight for the 2016 IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas where she also secured the gold medal and made history as the first athlete to win gold in two weight divisions.

McCourt’s professional debut in 2017 saw her taste defeat against Olympic Judo veteran Rizlen Zouak, before bouncing back in June of 2018 with a stylish effort to edge victory in a superfight of Amateur MMA champions, taking a split decision win over France’s Manon Fiorot – the 2017 IMMAF bantamweight gold medalist.

Sinead Kavanagh earned a silver medal for the Republic of Ireland in the featherweight bracket of the 2015 IMMAF Worlds. After a semi-final KO strike put away the USA’s Lindsey Lawrence, defeat in the final to Canada’s Jamie Herrington was overturned to a no-contest, due to Herringon failing a post-bout doping exam, testing positive for amphetamine.

Upon turning pro Kavanagh’s popularity has increased, beginning with a 2015 ‘KO of the Year’ stoppage under UK based promotion BAMMA, before later moving to Bellator where her repetition has grown with displays of courageous determination and grit, warranting her place on the Bellator 217 main card where she meets undefeated Israeli Olga Rubin.

2015 IMMAF World Championships veteran James Gallagher features in the headline slot of Bellator 217, taking on the USA’s Steven Graham. The full potential of Gallagher as an amateur prospect was never fully seen, as after his first two years of amateur experience, he entered the 2015 IMMAF Worlds at age 18, but was forced to withdraw due to injury after submitting USA man Sam Agushi. Turning pro shortly after, the SBG Ireland product was earmarked as an Irish prodigy by Bellator and was recruited in 2016. He now boasts a 7-1 pro record.

Bellator 217 also plays host to the progressing pro careers of Kiefer Crosbie (2015 IMMAF European Open veteran) and Sam Slater (2015 IMMAF European Open and 2017 World Championships veteran).

Team Ryano’s Paul Redmond, former UFC contender, is also back in action with Bellator. Redmond has been a part of the Republic of Ireland’s amateur success in recent years, serving as a coach with the Irish MMA Association (IMMAA) national team at numerous championship events.

Bellator 217 takes place on 23 Feb. at the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland.

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‘It’s Done!’: German MMA Federations Officially Merge to Form Single National Governing Body

Pictured: GEMMAF president Clemens Werner (left) alongside GAMMAF president Adrian Bakos (right)

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

The German MMA Federation (GEMMAF) has announced confirmation of a complete and total merger with former rival national body, the German Amateur MMA Federation (GAMMAF).

Following previous meetings and commitments to cooperate, a final meeting was held on Saturday (November 5), to agree upon unified statutes and for board elections.

IMMAF affiliate, GEMMAF, and WMMAA affiliate, GAMMAF, first held talks last June in Bucharest, during the week of the 2018 IMMAF European Open Championships.

On a global scale, discussions became a requirement in 2018 as only one national organisation can be recognised following the amalgamation of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and the World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA).

Germany’s unified body will retain the title of ‘GEMMAF’, led by the following board members:

President: Clemens Werner
Vice-President of Professional Sport: Adrian Bakos
Vice-President of Competitive Amateur Sport: Lutz Heyden
Vice-President of Recreational Sport: Michael Wachter
Vice-President Treasurer: Maryna Ivashko

Targets of the national body include:

  • Recognition for the sport of MMA in Germany
  • Further Development of regional and national amateur championships
  • Establishing national rankings
  • Continued development of the German national amateur team.

In recent months there has already been excellent cooperation between both bodies,’ read a GEMMAF statement. ‘From now on, together with united forces we will pursue our goals as the biggest MMA association in Germany. This is another big step to organize the German MMA scene, make it safer, establish standards and burnish the image.’

IMMAF president Kerrith Brown commented:

“Since the amalgamation of IMMAF and WMMAA, Germany has been among the nations to set a terrific example in mirroring our united effort at a national level. I congratulate the members of GEMMAF and GAMMAF on this great development and for all that they have achieved previously as separate entities. We can now look forward to an inspiring future for German MMA.”   

WMMAA president Vadim Finkelchtein commented:

“I am very proud of the both German federations in finalising their merger. They are leading by example and proving that our sport is strong and united. I want to thank GAMMAF and GEMMAF for supporting the unified international federation (IMMAF and WMMAA) and helping us make history together.”

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