Anette Österberg trains with American Top Team ahead of 2017 IMMAF World Championships

Above: Anette Österberg (right) battled Gabriella Ringblom in the 2016 IMMAF World Championship Finals

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

Next month Anette Österberg will once again represent Finland in the Women’s flyweight bracket. Österberg serves as the most decorated member of the current Finnish national amateur team and will enter the 2017 IMMAF World Championships in Bahrain as the number-two seed at 125lbs.

Since her international debut in 2015 Österberg has evolved to become one of amateur MMA’s perennial top contenders and a regular finalist in IMMAF championships tournaments – earning silver medals at the 2016 World Championships and 2017 European Open.

Arrival at the world famous American Top Team facility

Arrival at the world famous American Top Team facility

The world’s number 3 ranked flyweight remains in pursuit of a first IMMAF gold medal – but that could soon change with more lessons learnt and further experience gained in recent amateur competition, in addition to an intensive two-week fight camp at the world renown American Top Team Academy in Florida, USA.

“It was my first time visiting at ATT,” Österberg told IMMAF.org. “It was a quite short notice trip. My coach had been talking with people at ATT in late September. We were considering going there after Christmas, but then we organised it so that we could go for a two-week training camp before the IMMAF worlds. We booked flights three days before we left from Finland.”

ATT’s main facility in Coconut Creek is home to a plethora of current and former MMA world champions, including the UFC bantamweight champion, Amanda Nunes, and the sensational UFC strawweight champion, Joanna Jędrzejczyk.

“I’m a huge fan of Joanna, so it was nice to meet her at ATT,” Österberg noted. “I like her style of fighting, she makes it look so easy! On T.V. she looks a bit cocky, but actually she was a very nice person. It was cool to get to know her. We trained once in wrestling class, but hopefully in the future I can go there again and train with her more.”

Perhaps more valuable than the chance to gain insight from a UFC great, Österberg was able to share the mat with well experienced veterans of Women’s MMA, such as UFC contender Nina Ansaroff. Thisk is an opportunity that she will not often encounter at home due to scarce numbers of female participants in higher level MMA spread across Finland and Scandinavia. Nevertheless, Österberg has been able to become a successful product of the Hardknocks Training Center in Helsinki.

“There are a lot of female fighters at ATT. I trained among the pro group where there was only a few amateurs besides myself. There were females from many different organizations like UFC, Bellator, Titan FC and others. There were also lot of high level jiu jitsu girls who were training with us. I had an opportunity to train with most of them, so I was training with very experienced athletes.

“In our own gym there are not any female MMA fighters. Most of the time I train with the guys, so training with only girls was super nice and more realistic.

“Training with experienced athletes helps me to develop myself. Also, training with other female fighters gives me a realistic picture of my own skills and gives me self-confidence. I’ve been practicing a lot and I have become stronger and more versatile as a fighter. As my skills grow, my self-confidence has also improved.”

At the the 2017 World Championships, Österberg will be 1 of 13 international flyweight contenders representing their country as a top amateur standout. In addition to the exciting new lineup of talent joining this year’s bracket, familiar faces in Bahrain include Italy’s Ilaria Norcia, Sweden’s 2015 world silver medalist Anja Saxmark and two-time IMMAF European Open champion Alexandra Kovacs who represents Hungary for the first time at the IMMAF World Championships, entering as the number-one seed.

Training at ATT alongside UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk (far right)

Training at ATT alongside UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk (far right)

Österberg remains fully prepared and confident for whoever she is drawn against in the IMMAF flyweight bracket.

“When I participate in a tournament, I don’t focus so much on an individual fighter. I try to develop myself and my own skills. I don’t know all the fighters in my weight class, but I believe that everyone who is coming there wants to win the tournament. So in every fight I must work hard.”

Finland has never failed to achieve a gold medal at the IMMAF World Championships. Men’s featherweight Jari Illikainen and Aleksi Nurminen were the first to do so in Las Vegas 2014 – followed by Women’s strawweight  Minna Grusander in Vegas 2015 and Men’s bantamweight Abdul Hussein in Vegas 2016.

With this year’s IMMAF Worlds taking place outside of the USA for the very first time, Finland maintains high expectations as the team looks to maintain its presence on the podium.

“The level and value of the amateur competitions has risen a lot and this has been noticed in Finland as well. This year, Finland has 13 contestants in the IMMAF World Championships. A few of them will be there first time, but most are already experienced competitors. I think that everyone has invested a lot and I believe they will also show it in the fights – so my expectations in these competitions are high. See you in Bahrain!”

The 2017 IMMAF World Championships take place at Khalifa Sports City Arena from 12 to 19 November, as part of Brave International Combat Week, the 2017 World Championships are set to be the biggest event in the history of amateur MMA under IMMAF with more participants than ever before representing nations from all continents. 2017 marks the first year of the IMMAF Worlds taking place outside of Las Vegas, USA.

For live IMMAF World Championships results and more information on national amateur teams visit MyNextMatch.com

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