With Welsh MMA on the rise, local promoter utilizes IMMAF talent to maintain amateur development

Pictured: Team UK’s Kaycee Blake enters for the IMMAF World Championships finals

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

Welsh MMA is undoubtedly on the rise. Throughout 2017, the trailblazing duo of Brett Johns and Jack Marshman continued to fly the nation’s flag in the UFC, the sport’s upper tier and leading promoter.

Subsequently, Cardiff is arguably due a UFC event of its own. The Welsh fanbase has let itself be known, athletes receive more notable media coverage and standout gyms and coaches receive commendation for maintaining a steady output of exciting hopefuls.

Josh Ellis, in 2015, was the first Welshman to win an IMMAF title when he secured gold for the UK in the Men’s lightweight bracket at the 2015 World Championships in Las Vegas, USA. Jack Shore followed up later that year at the European Open Championships in Birmingham, UK, also winning the gold medal in the Men’s 155lb division.

In Bahrain last November, the UK’s national amateur MMA team featured a sizable Welsh contingent competing at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships, in addition to welcoming coach Chris Rees on board to corner athletes alongside UKMMAF mainstay, Nigel Burgess.

Women’s lightweight contender Kaycee Blake emerged as a unknown newcomer to be the UK’s highest achiever of the 2017 World Championships, earning the silver medal. After plowing through her preliminary opponents to snatch first round stoppages, Blake was defeated in the tournament final by New Zealand’s Gase Sanita.

In recognition of the athletes competing under the IMMAF banner, Welsh promotion Adrenalin Fight Night has sought to provide added opportunity and momentum for top flight amateurs by the matching home grown talent with their international counterparts and fellow IMMAF championship standouts.

Blake looks to keep up the momentum after her bout with Sanita, and what better step to take than testing herself against the next best active contender: Germany’s Julia Dorny.

Dorny earned bronze at the 2017 World Championships, defeated by Sanita via a split-decision in the semi-finals. Dorny herself earned silver in 2016 when competing as a featherweight at the World Championships and European Open. Blake and Dorny are scheduled to face off when Adrenalin Fight Night heads to the scenic harbour town of Tenby on February 24.

In addition, Scott Pedersen made his IMMAF World Championships debut last year as an accomplished veteran of the UK national scene. Pedersen traveled to Bahrain as one of the event’s most experienced newcomers, but found himself eliminated via the judge’s scorecards upon facing Quitin Thomas who went earn to win the world title for the USA.

Pedersen is back in action under the Adrenalin Fight Night banner, taking on Austria’s Bogdan Grad: a veteran of diverse international experience having competed at the last three IMMAF World Championships. Grad went the distance with Josh Ellis in 2015, dropping a decision loss in the quarter-finals.

While it is not the first promotion to match international prospects together, Adrenalin FN head James Wallis explained the move was a conscious decision to ensure the continued development of Welsh contenders by drafting in standout talent from the world’s most recognised amateur platform, replicating the proven talent development model of other amateur combat sports: progression through consistent experience and quality.

“In Wales we want the amateur game to progress,” Wallis told IMMAF.org. “We want  fighters have better amateur experience like in other combat sports, so fighters don’t have to go pro when it’s still a hobby. The IMMAF athletes are the best in the amateur game so to bring them to Wales to fight our top amateurs is a step in the right direction moving forward.”

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