Pictured above: IMMAF World Heavyweight Champion Irman Smajc
Amateur Super-Heavyweight Atanas Krastanov (pictured below, right) emerged at last year’s IMMAF European Open Championships and took home the gold medal at just 19 years of age. The 280lb Bulgarian returns this year to defend his title on home soil at the 2017 European Open, taking place in the city of Sofia. However, he will be joined by 2016 Heavyweight World Champion Irman Smajic who has now ventured into new territory where he aims to conquer the biggest of them all.
Sweden’s two-time European Open silver medalist and 2016 World Heavyweight Champion told IMMAF.org in January of his decision to step up and face the Super-Heavyweight ranks. “I have thought about it for a while and this can maybe take me one step closer to being the first amateur fighter that the UFC calls,” Smajic stated. Click HERE for the full feature. The ‘Bosnian Bomber’ has displayed both ferocity and heart in recent years, going the distance with top French representative Allan Guichard at the World Championship finals in Las Vegas, and announcing himself at the 2016 European Open in Prague with a devastating KO finish of Irishman Ryan Spillane in just 0:16 seconds.
After winning the amateur 265lb World championship, the acquisition of second title at 265lb+ would make Smajic the first male athlete to win gold in two separate weight brackets. Northern Ireland’s Leah McCourt was the first to do so when she won the European Open Women’s Lightweight title in 2015 followed by the Featherweight World Championship in 2016.
In his debut appearance at an IMMAF championship event, Krastanov outpointed Poland’s Super-Heavyweight world silver medalist Marcin Kalata in the semi-finals before grinding down Finland’s Matias Anttila (pictured above, left) to earn the gold. Now, the young champion has the opportunity to solidify himself as one of Amateur MMA’s top young prospects with a threatening champion and consistent medal winner in Smajic now added to the mix.
Anttila himself will be in the hunt for redemption and did not go without making an impressive statement of his own last year with an extremely hard fought semi-final victory coming off the back of a late TKO finish over Austrian Damian Visenjak to progress to the European Open finals.
The heavy hitting Kalata also returns to the competition looking to make his way back to a tournament final for the first time since the 2016 World Championships. When competing as a heavyweight in 2015, Kalata bested Smajic via a Unanimous Decision but was unable to advance due to sustaining an injury. Their paths may once again cross at the European Open, taking place from March 29 to April 2.
By IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran