New Zealand’s Gase Sanita Targets History and Second World Title

By IMMAF.org lead writer/photographer, Jorden Curran

The cancellation of a professional debut has afforded New Zealand’s Gase Sanita the opportunity to make history at the world’s premier amateur MMA championships.

Also following the postponement of China hosting the IMMAF Asian Open, the reigning women’s lightweight world champion was among the vast majority of registered athletes to immediately transfer for early registration to the upcoming IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships. She will represent the New Zealand national team from 11-18 November in Manama, Bahrain.

“This November I will further drop in weight division (to featherweight) and try bring another gold for the team,” Sanita wrote via social media. “I’m more determined, focused and driven to get the job done. throughout this camp I have learnt a lot about myself as a fighter and a person. I have pushed and definitely stretched my mental limitations and physical passed what even I believed I could do.”

“I cannot express and share enough how truly thankful we are for everyone’s support! Without everyone’s support nothing of what we have achieved or are wanting to achieve would ever be possible! We are truly blessed with the most amazing team of supporters.”

Success upon her return to Bahrain could see the Kiwi standout become the first woman to win a second world title, and in an additional weight bracket. However, rivaling Sanita for the achievement will be Italy’s featherweight world champion Fabiana Giampa, who also returns to target a lower weight, this time entering the women’s bantamweight division.

During the 2017 gold medal campaign, Sanita showcased her potential in the semi-finals as the grappling based contender boxed her way through a thrilling a split-decision encounter with perennial top contender Julia Dorny. Sanita edged the scorecard victory with a persistent effort to overcome the reach of her much taller opposition.

Sanita lands a right right on Kaycee Blake in the 2017 IMMAF World Championship final

Once again facing larger opposition, Sanita met the UK’s Kaycee Blake in the 2017 final and with little delay proceeded to nullify the Brit on the ground and hunt for a choke before finishing the bout with a second round arm-bar submission to take home the gold medal. The reigning IMMAF world champion picked up momentum this month ahead of Bahrain 2018 with another arm-bar submission triumph on the national circuit.

Former amateur sensation Jose Torres was the first athlete to win back-to-back IMMAF world titles. Representing the USA, the now UFC contender twice went all the way at men’s bantamweight to earn gold medals in 2014 and 2015. The feat was equaled in 2016 by Will Starks, also of the USA national team, who retained the welterweight crown. Sweden’s Irman Smajic was the third the be crowned a two-time IMMAF world champion, winning the heavyweight gold in 2016 and 2017.

Athlete registration for the 2018 World Championships closes on October 1. For more event and team information visit MyNextMatch.com.

Japan MMA Federation Issues Heartfelt Message Following the Death of MMA Icon “Kid” Yamamoto

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

IMMAF was saddened to learn that Japanese MMA icon, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, had passed away on Tuesday September 18 at the age of 41, following his battle with cancer.

From his roots as a young wrestling prodigy, the son of a Japanese Olympian progressed to achieve K-1 and MMA stardom, capturing the imagination of Japan’s mainstream.

The charismatic Yamamoto rose to sensational prominence at the forefront of Japanese MMA throughout the noughties. Making his debut in 2001, Yamamoto was renown for taking on much larger opposition and pioneered the prominence of lighter weight divisions, competing as a lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight, eventually breaking into the UFC ranks in 2011.

Following his passing, the Japan MMA Federation (JMMAF) today issued a touching message for the national hero:

We are in deep sorrow to hear that “Kid” passed away.

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto began his sensational MMA career in 2001, the beginning of 21st century.

Just few years later, he grew to become the embodiment of modern MMA in Japan. Kid became the superstar of Japanese MMA and was influential in widely opening the market for recognition of smaller weight competitors.

Kid fought not only MMA, but also in K-1 rules. Despite regularly being the smallest competitor, he showed great skill, ability and spirit that moved entire audiences.

Many athletes of the Japan MMA Federation (JMMAF) say how Kid is their favorite fighter and inspiration for starting their own journey in MMA.

From athletes, coaches, officials and fans, Japan loves you and respects you, Kid.

Never to be forgotten, thank you and forever,

The Japan MMA Federation.

Theebaan Govindasamy Picks Up Asian MMA ‘Amateur of the Year’ Award

By IMMAF.org lead writer/photographer, Jorden Curran

Presented by The Fight Nation, the inaugural Asian MMA Awards took place last week in Hong Kong.

Invited to represent the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, IMMAF equipment manager Jaine Shah was in attendance to present the award for Amateur of the Year, picked up by Malaysia’s Theebaan Govindasamy.

Hailing from Kuala Lumpur, the 28-year-old competed in the middleweight division of the 2017 IMMAF World Championships in Manama, Bahrain. Govindasamy eliminated Mexico’s Alan Garcia via a unanimous decision in the tournament’s opening round before facing defeat against high ranked Australian Joseph Luciano.

From April 2016 to November 2017, the Karate specialist remained undefeated with a streak of 8 victories under the regional Malaysian Invasion banner, regulated by the Malaysia Mixed Martial Arts Association – the nation’s affiliated IMMAF representative.

With 22 years of karate experience, many spent competing for his country at international competition, Govindasamy was the official Ambassador for Malaysian Youth Sports at the Beijing Olympics. The eight-time national karate champion began training MMA little more than three years ago and has transitioned to become a dual-sports standout.

 

European king Ryan Spillane commits to mastering heavyweight ranks at 2018 Amateur World Championships

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

Ryan Spillane embodies all that the IMMAF platform aims to provide for developing mixed martial artists from a young age. He will be Ireland’s one to watch this year at the 2018 IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships.

From an 18-year-old with a patchy record to being crowned European Open gold medalist at age 21, the heavyweight standout is on a compelling journey to master the heavyweight ranks and prove the extent of his evolution on the premier stage for amateur MMA.

A matured Spillane was showcased this year at the 2018 Senior European Open Championships in Bucharest. The once inexperienced hopeful displayed his best form to date with speed and technical awareness to stop both Matias Antilla (Finland) and 2017 European finalist Daniel Yankov (Bulgaria), each in under 90 seconds.

Spillane’s initial response was that his first IMMAF title is a sign to make the professional jump, but after a sit down with coach Liam-Ogg Griffin, his aspirations are not over, the amateur pinnacle is yet to be conquered.

“It made more sense to finish this year with a world gold then smash the pro ranks in 2018,” Spillane told IMMAF.org. “It was always my plan to turn pro fairly soon. It was always the plan to turn pro after winning a gold, as it would skyrocket me. After having a sit down with Liam it made more sense to finish it with these tournaments, I’m still very young in this game and I’m in no rush.”

Spillane’s last three wins on the IMMAF platform have come via first round stoppages and with notable submission talents. For Coach Griffin, the ability of Spillane has made itself known. However, the mission now is to grasp the reigns for controlled momentum before an eventual pro debut.

“Ryan has had some ups and downs over the last couple of years,” he said.

“In the last 12 months Ryan has worked really hard on sports psychology, his strength and conditioning and getting to fight form, and he’s managed to do that. I want him to maintain that consistent form for 6, 8, even 12 months; I don’t want him to have any doubts that where he’s competing now is the real Ryan. I want him to go into his pro debut on a surge of confidence.

As one of the Republic of Ireland’s national team coaches, Griffin hopes for athletes to maximize the potential of IMMAF championships on offer, using the platform as an accurate measurement of progress and ability with up to five opponents in the space of a week long tournament.

“With IMMAF particularly, Ryan is always guaranteed multiple opponents. On the domestic scene, he had three fights cancelled in the first half of 2018 in January, February and March.

“I want him to have at least 20 fights as an amateur before turning pro. That’s a figure that I have in my head for all ammy athletes here with aspirations of turning pro, from watching some guys who have turned pro early and are losing fights and quitting [the sport].”

For amateur competitors, defeats are merely lessons that are to be faced sooner, rather than risking exposure as  professionals. Upon the transition, the slate is wiped clean and the medals earned become the stepping stone to early prominence.

“For the longevity of Ryan’s career, if he gets all his learning phase done now, we’ll attack pro as a seasoned veteran. There are still a few technical things that I want to fix and it’s at the amateur stage where you do that tweaking, not as pro.”

The 2018 World Championships take place in Manama, Bahrain from from 11-18 November. Spillane will be one of the fastest rising athletes in attendance and will return to take a second shot at the gold, this time entering with the title of European Champion and as the most accomplished heavyweight of the year thus far.

IMMAF WELCOMES MMA CYMRU FOR WALES

Wales has owned a presence in IMMAF Championships since 2015, producing standouts in gold medallists, Jack Shore (2015 European Championships), Josh Ellis (2015 World Championships) and Roan Crocker (2018 European Junior Championships, as well as silver medallist, Kaycee Blake (2017 World Championships) – all competing under the flag of the United Kingdom.

Now Wales can boast its own national MMA federation, MMA Cymru, headed up by President Chris Rees.

MMA Cymru is a Community Interest Company founded with the purpose of introducing a regulated structure for MMA within Wales to the benefit the local community, in particular the MMA community. Its primary goals are stated as follows;

1) Implement structure to gain recognition for MMA
2) Provide support and structure for athletes and clubs within Wales
3) Align the individual clubs towards the end goal towards representing Wales at an international level
4) Create an infrastructure to develop athletes from grass roots to elite level within the sport

Supporting Rees on the founding committee are Richard Shore (Technical Director), Neil Watkins (Financial Director), Eira Culverwell (Secretary) and Ricky Wright (Business Development). Founding member gyms are Tillery Combat Centre, The Mat Academy, Nails Fight Club, Craig Ewers Academy and CRA Pembroke.

MMA Cymru will be working in collaboration with the United Kingdom Mixed Martial Arts Federation (UKMMAF) in areas of shared interest, such as officials’ and coaches’ education.

IMMAF President Kerrith Brown said:

“Following a meeting with the UKMMAF and UK ‘home countries’ stakeholders earlier this year, the IMMAF board has agreed to adopt the ‘FIFA model’, which is consistent with the existence of the Ulster MMA Association, already representing Northern Ireland under IMMAF.  Should MMA become an Olympic sport, the home countries would need to unite under the UKMMAF, but in IMMAF Championships each will be entitled to send its own team. Benefits of this structure include focused regional development, alongside a mutual expansion in expertise, to accelerate the development and recognition of the sport. Other exciting opportunities that open up include future UKMMAF home countries tournaments.”

MMA Cymru President Chris Rees said:

“’Wales has been a hotbed for MMA for some time now, with athletes competing at the top levels of professional MMA as well as medalling in IMMAF Championships. The formation of a Welsh Federation was a natural progression and something I’m very excited to be a part of.

“I intend to make sure that we have full representation across the whole of Wales so that we can develop into one of the leading IMMAF member countries both competitively and structurally and gain the recognition which the sport of MMA deserves.

“I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the IMMAF board for their faith in this new structure, and to the UKMMAF for their continued support in the formation and development of the home countries.

“The level of competition at the IMMAF tournaments is truly phenomenal with skilful and dedicated athletes across the weight divisions, but the Welsh athletes are ready and able to step up and show just how loudly the Welsh dragon can roar!”

UKMMAF President Windy Miller said:

“The Welsh Federation is an integral part of the UKMMAF and together we are moving forward to develop the sport of MMA in the UK. UKMMAF is pleased to announcel an England Team of thirty-seven will be attending the IMMAF – WMMAA Unified World Championships. We are also pleased to announce the formation of the Welsh Team under MMA Cymru president and coach, Chris Rees.”