Pride at stake in amateur MMA World Championships with Abu Dhabi again centre of action

Capital continues to cement reputation as one of world's key fight venues

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There is a sense of pride in every bout at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation’s (IMMAF) World Championships for amateur fighters.

The competition that began on Monday at the Zayed Sports City’s Jiu-Jitsu Arena in Abu Dhabi has been a hive of activity.

The fighters, 421 of them from 56 nations, compete under their nation’s flag in the format and the crowds arrive to cheer the national team rather than individuals.

On a busy first day, 73 fights were staged across four cages resulting in two knockouts, 12 TKO’s, 16 submissions, a disqualification, 37 unanimous decisions and five split decisions.

The six-day event consists of 24 divisions in both in the junior (U21) and senior (Over 21) men and 12 for women and concludes with the junior finals on Friday followed by the seniors on Saturday.

In this format, the fighters wear protective gear such as shin guards. There are also restrictions on the techniques, with no shots at the head, no elbow and forearm strikes or knee hooks .

The seventh edition of the championships was to take place in Kazakhstan last November but moved to Abu Dhabi at short notice due to the rising Covid-19 cases in the Central Asian nation.

Kerrith Brown, the IMMAF president, praised the General Authority for Sports in the UAE, UAE Jiu-Jitsu and MMA Federation, Abu Dhabi Sports Council and Palms Sports for taking over the competition reins in Abu Dhabi at short notice.

“To facilitate the World Championships within 12 weeks against the backdrop of the Covid protocols is absolutely fantastic,” the Briton said. “This world championships has broken all records in terms of the participation and the number of countries.”

The championships is widely regarded as a stepping stone for those who want to pursue a career as MMA professionals.

“MMA is a new sport, and our job and our role is to educate for the development of the amateur,” Brown, who represented the country in judo at the 1984 Olympics, said. “The sport was born upside down, technically, where we had the professionals who first started the sport.

“As the international federation, it’s our job and our duty to build the fabric, the foundation to build this sport so the amateur athletes reach the highest level.

“When they are ready to make that transition from amateur to professional, then we have given them the best start. Through education comes development and diversity, that’s everything that’s involved in this sport.”

Meanwhile, the UAEJJF and MMA Federation signed an agreement to host the IMMAF Youth (U18) World Championship for the next three years.

“Abu Dhabi is named as the new fight capital of the world and the Youth World Championship is a new addition to this list,” Mohammed Al Hosani, general secretary of the UAE MMA Committee, said.

“The unique thing about the amateur World Championships is the fighters represent their country. In this Championship, every country can enter two competitors in each weight division.

“The ongoing Championships is a real treat for the fans with eight fighters in action across four cages simultaneously.”

The UAE had four competitors in action in Abu Dhabi. “They were all eliminated in the first round but they can certainly take that experience forward,” Al Hosani added.

“With the youth worlds planned for the end of this year, we are ow looking forward to have a stronger presence as the host nation. This championship is another exciting addition to the combat sports in the UAE.”

Updated: January 26, 2022, 3:34 PM