Can Sanan Safarli go all the way as breakthrough star of 2017?

By lead writer, Jorden Curran

20-year-old Sana Safarli (pictured above) is on course to be the definitive breakthrough star of international amateur MMA in 2017 if he can seal the deal next month at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships in Manama, Bahrain.

In April the Men’s flyweight competitor was honored by the Ministry of Youth and Sports of the Republic of Azerbaijan following his gold medal triumph at the 2017 IMMAF European Open Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Safarli entered the 2017 European Open as a bronze medal winner of the previous year in Prague. This year he captured the a first IMMAF gold medal for Azerbaijan with a trio of flyweight bracket victories, each more impressive than the last.

In Sofia, Safarli bested Lebanon’s Roland Yacoubian in the opening round of bouts by way of a Unanimous Decision before clinching a split-decision win over Kazakhstan’s unpredictable striking specialist, Berik Shinaliyev. The young Safarli showcased huge advancement in his skillset for the European championship final, finishing Nikolay Ivalyov of the prolific Bulgarian national team via a triangle choke submission in the first round of action.

Safarli featured on national television upon meeting with heads of state

Safarli featured on national television upon meeting with state leaders

With no prior wrestling background Safarli developed his fondness for grappling when venturing into mixed martial arts and has excelled in a short space of time. 2004 Olympic wrestling gold medalist and head of Azerbaijan’s National Sports Department, Farid Mansurov, praised Safarli, his team mate Mahammad Aliyev and the Azerbaijani team for their participation.

Safarli stands as the world’s no.2 ranked flyweight competitor, second only to no.1 ranked Serdar Altas. The 23-year-old Swede eliminated Safarli in the 2016 semi-finals en route to claiming last year’s European Open title. Altas and Safarli will enter this year’s World Championships as the number 1 & 2 seeds, respectively. If they are to face of for a second time, it will be the world title decider.

Taking place at Khalifa Sports City Arena from 12 to 19 November, as part of Brave International Combat Week, the 2017 World Championships are anticipated 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.



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