Team of The Year Nominee: Bahrain (2019 Amateur MMA Awards)

Team Bahrain celebrated its greatest collective achievement in 2019, officially becoming the world’s number-one ranked national team at the senior amateur level.

Bahrain’s hopefuls reset their focus upon the start of the new year, following a 2018 World Championships of mixed results. Despite hosting several top medal contenders heading into the 2018 Worlds and boasting one of the largest squads, gold proved elusive as the championships played out with Bahrain taking just two athletes to the senior finals.

Nevertheless, Bahrain prevailed in the end. The host nation was forced to wait, but it was the super-heavyweight monster Pasha
who forcefully took gold with one of the greatest shots ever seen on the international amateur platform, knocking out Russian national champion Grigoriy Ponomarev with a single punch in the opening round (pictured below.)

Kharkhachaev, also nominated for Senior Male Athlete of The Year, would go on to cement himself as one of the most must-see performers in all of MMA. Showcasing unprecedented one-punch stopping power, he picked up both the European and Asian Open titles in 2019 as Bahrain’s team prowess began to take great effect with several new recruits alongside seasoned team members such as Abdulmanap Magomedov (pictured below) realising their hunt for gold against top flight rivals.

Team Bahrain took the year by storm, dominating the African Open and placing second in the medal table at the Asian Open Championships, all before delivering a full account of themselves at the 2019 European Open, where Russian dominance was highly anticipated.

Bahrain were unable to take home a single silver medal from the European Open. That is because all five of Bahrain’s athletes who made it to the finals were triumphant. With five gongs to their name, Bahrain tied with Russia in the European Open gold count and finished second in the overall medal table, retaining their place at the summit of the senior team rankings. Heavyweight Shamil Gaziev achieved his third continental title of the year, seeing him overtake no.1 ranked world champion, Ryan Spillane (Ireland), setting up a highly anticipated collision at this year’s World Championships.

The determination of the Bahrain MMA Federation and talent development hub KHK MMA has high ambitions for nurturing MMA within the kingdom. The nation’s policy has seen life changing opportunity given to athletes and coaches of Dagestan, to join the national team ranks.

In return, the team’s success lends to the profile of MMA within Bahrain and enables home grown prospects and budding athletes from the Arabic region to enjoy exposure to high caliber training partners and world class facilities.

2018 Junior World Bantamweight Medalists, left to right: Reo Yamaguchi (silver, Japan), Muhammad Mokaev (gold, UK), Ali Yaqoob (bronze, Bahrain), Ismael Zamora (bronze, Mexico)

Junior contenders Ebrahim Darwish and Ali Yaqoob stand among the youngest home grown examples, who fought their way to the Junior World Championships podium, while senior veterans have also continued to evolve such as Hamza Zrira winning the Africa Open in 2019 for the second time and original Team Bahrain alumni Hussein Ayyad Abdulla (pictured below) having transitioned to become a standout professional under the Brave FC banner, building a resume of international victories.

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA) host the 2019 Amateur MMA Awards on Thursday 14 November during the 2019 IMMAF | WMMAA Unified World Championships in Manama.

National Team of The Year nominations include:

• Bahrain
• Russia
• Kazakhstan

For more information on award categories and nominates, click HERE.

By lead writer: Jorden Curran

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