In 2014, amateur Mixed Martial Arts entered a new era thanks to the inaugural IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas.
The ground breaking competition was a world first for the sport, an unprecedented international, non-profit tournament.
Over 100 athletes participated from 23 countries across five continents. The finals were held inside the UFC Fan Expo at Mandalay Bay and the winners’ lives would be forever changed as they entered the professional ranks.
That year six Arab fighters, the first to enter these prestigious World Championships, were sent by Team Lebanon. They were: Joeshwa Mortada, Imad Hoayek, Rachel Abi Abdallah, Richard Saliba, Ricardo Bachir and Mohamed Yakzan.
Though only two of the six fighters got past their first round fights, they were all an inspiration, and paved the way for the next wave of Arab amateurs to enter the following year.
In 2015 Team Lebanon came back stronger with three hungry fighters; Imad hoayek (middleweight), Joeshwa Mortada (lightweight), and Fahed Dandash (light heavyweight). Imad and Joeshwa took Bronze medals, announcing themselves and the Arab community to the MMA world, proudly flying the Lebanese flag.
That year also saw the formation of Team Bahrain lead by H.H Sheikh Khaled and they swiftly sent two inexperienced fighters, Abdullah Seena and Ali Ebrahimi, to gain experience on the biggest amateur stage.
Both the afore mentioned fighters will be returning this year to compete again, despite losing their first round matches last year, and will be joined by an additional four Bahraini prospects including European Open Bronze Medalist Hussein Maki, Mohamed Adnan, Abdulla Alfayez, and Fahad Abdulrazaq.
In less than a week, Bahrain’s six will be joined by two from Lebanon, one of whom is Imad Hoayek’s replacement following his injury during training camp. Imad won two fights in the world championships last year, and there were high hopes pinned on him this year, but his loss becomes an opportunity for Beirut’s up–and-comer Hani Sarduk. He will be joined by Richard Saliba – who competed in 2014 as a welterweight and will now come back to Las Vegas a tall, strong featherweight.
Destiny now awaits these Arab teams, who enter the 2016 IMMAF World Championships, stronger, more experienced and better prepared than ever. They have an opportunity to keep the momentum going for Arab MMA which is only going to roll on next year after the recent announcement of the birth of Chahe Yerevandian’s Phoenix Fighting Championships. Bahrain’s six, who come from the all-star KHK MMA team, will be expecting medals and they have big chances, particularly with the experienced Hussein Maki and Abdullah Seena, who both enter on red-hot form.
More exciting than the prospect of medals, is the prospect of growth and development in Arab MMA. This will be showcased next week, starting from July 5th, as we prepare to set a new benchmark in amateur MMA in the Middle East, which will inspire generations to follow.
IMMAF 2015 – Joeshwa Mortada Vs. Ciaran Breslin
IMMAF 2015 – Joeshwa Mortada Vs. Kacper Formela