Tolly Plested has been UAE national team coach for only two months, but the Englishman is confident his athletes can put up a good showing in next week’s International Mixed Martial Art Federation Youth World Championships.
The four-day championship for girls and boys from 12-13, 14-15 and 16-17 has drawn more than 600 competitors from 46 countries for the event at the Mubadala Arena at Zayed Sports City starting on August 2.
The UAE is hosting the event for the second consecutive year as part of a three-year hosting rights agreement between IMMAF and the UAE Jiu-Jitsu and MMA Federation.
The host nation won a gold, silver and two bronzes on their debut last year and, with 40 entries, Plested is certain they will have more of their athletes winning a spot on the podium this time around.
Jesem Al Hosani will be among them, defending his 77-kilogramme title.
“I have been with the federation for just over two months and I’m enjoying the preparations for next week’s championships,” Plested told The National at the launch ceremony for the event on Wednesday.
“There are athletes from different parts of the country. We have brought them together for a camp and create a positive environment for them all to train together.”
According to Plested, the team have trained on individually under their coaches in their respective clubs and they are now finishing off their preparations with him putting the finishing touches to the team.
The host team went into last year’s competition with 28 athletes and the number has risen to 40 in their second appearance.
“I think it shows the progression and popularity of MMA here in the UAE and I’m enjoying seeing that growth,” Plested said.
Plested, 41, a former MMA professional fighter is no stranger to the UAE. He was head coach of both the UFC gym in the UAE and in the UK, and also coached at One FC, UAE Warriors and various promotions around the world for over 18 years.
The IMMAF president Kerrith Brown said they were really excited to return to Abu Dhabi with a record entry.
“It shows the growth among the youth globally and the development of the next generation of the athletes. They are not coming off any other martial arts but now directly into MMA, and we are very proud of that development,” he said.
Brigadier General Mohammed bin Dalmouj Al Dhaheri, chairman of the UAEMMA Federation, said the Youth World Championships is a showcase of the next generation of the MMA athletes.
“This championship provides and ideal platform for the world’s elite young MMA athletes a platform to showcase their skills and abilities to a global audience,” he said.