By Dane McGuire, U.S. Correspondent
The USA is once again prepared to compete with some of the top mixed martial artists from across the globe and will do so at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA held between 12-19 of November in Bahrain.
The U.S. Mixed Martial Arts Kick International Federation (UMMAF) recently held their 2017 national championships in Elizabethton, Tennessee along with Valor Fights. The national body now knows the men and women who will be nominated to represent the UMMAF and their country on the biggest international stage.
The story of 18-year- old Georgia native Chase Boutwell (pictured above, left) arguably could have been the highlight of the tournament and it embodies the very spirit of MMA as a whole—if you have skill, push through adversity, and are passionate long enough, glory awaits.
Boutwell elected to miss both his senior prom and graduation from high school to compete at the nationals, inspired by his mother. She has her own fight against Multiple Sclerosis (MS) that has been ongoing since she was 24-years-old, enduring eight brain surgeries in the process.
The young gun made it through a trying 18 minutes of competition (two bouts) to earn unanimous decision victories over two days to improve to 4-0. He previously fought for a junior world championship in Muay Thai in mid-2016 and had a 5-0 record at that time per his home gym’s website.
Justin Brown, Southeast Regional Director of the UMMAF said, “Super proud of this inspired young man! This is our youngest ever UMMAF Amateur National Champion!…He sacrificed a great deal simply for the opportunity to represent his country and compete at the IMMAF World Championship Tournament and prove that he is one of the best in the world!”
The regional television outlet that first covered Boutwell’s amazing story reported that he has been training in MMA since he was in elementary school. The win at nationals and to win at all means so much more to him than just a positive statistic on his record.
“It’s the one moment she doesn’t have MS,” Chase said. “She doesn’t have hydrocephalus. Everything was perfect and I’m glad I could bring that moment to my parents, to me and everybody else who’s cheering for me.”
2017 UMMAF champions by weight division:
*The Men’s 145 and Women’s 155-pound divisions are vacant.
Women’s Strawweight (115 pounds): Genia Goodin
Kentucky’s Genia Goodin is a massive grappling threat as well as on the feet as she is now 6-0 with half of those wins being by submission due to chokes. She qualified for the World Championships with a second-round doctor stoppage TKO win over Jennifer Clausius. Goodin will enter Bahrain with a career fight time of just 18:59 and with three first-round finishes.
Women’s Flyweight (125 pounds): Codie Wareham
Alaska’s Codie Wareham (3-2 per Tapology.com) had her first fight of the 2017 tournament in the finals, so the pressure was immediately on! She would rise to the occasion by finishing with a third-round KO/TKO. Wareham is a 2015 veteran of the U.S national team, that year she earned bronze in the Women’s Strawweight division.
Women’s Bantamweight (135 pounds): Brittney Cloudy
Missouri’s Brittney Cloudy has a day job in the field of education. The educated limbs that she possesses as a fighter however (now 6-1 with three wins by strikes and two tap-outs) have helped her punch a ticket to not only her first national tournament but now her first time at the Worlds. She choked out well-matched 5-1 Megan Poe in just over five minutes to qualify. Out of 117 female fighters between Missouri and Kansas, Cloudy is ranked #4 pound-for-pound.
Women’s Featherweight (145 pounds): Taryn Conklin
Taryn Conklin qualified for the World Championships after receiving an automatic BYE. The native of West Virginia will enter the international competition for the second straight year in November and with a 3-1 record with all of her wins coming by way of KO/TKO.
Men’s Flyweight (125 pounds): Sean Stebbins
Minnesota’s Sean Stebbins climbed to a perfect 7-0 and scored his third career submission victory in the finals, a second-round armbar. The flawless competitor could soon be coming to a television near you as he almost went pro (per Tapology.com) with the Resurrection Fighting Alliance in 2016 (now the Legacy Fighting Alliance,) a premier developmental organization for the top level of the sport.
While the bout failed to materialize, he makes a great addition to this year’s national squad and is definitely a prospect to watch!
Men’s Bantamweight (135 pounds): Chase Boutwell
Men’s Lightweight (155 pounds): Quintin Thomas
At 7-1 South Carolina’s Quintin Thomas’s only blemish has come due to an injury TKO. Since that time, he has won five consecutive fights that include a 3-0 run during nationals over the entirety of the competi;tion. The 24-year- old walked away with two decision victories as well as a win by kimura according to Tapology. It was the first submission victory of his career and proved that he is more than just a boxer. He is ranked at #5 out of 906 active fighters at lightweight in the southeast. With even more time to prepare for November, he could be a true viper!
Men’s Welterweight (170 pounds): Benjamin Bennett
Alaska’s Benjamin Bennett will add experience to the team after going 2-1 over three days at the 2016 World Championships in Las Vegas. The durable combatant qualified again after going the distance with Angelo Rivera Jr.
Men’s Middleweight (185 pounds): Darian Weeks
Weeks joins Brittney Cloudy as the second representative of Missouri on the team after racking up two UDs and a KO/TKO finish in just one minute and 44 seconds to move to 7-1 with three finishes overall. He is ranked at #3 out of 228 fighters in Kansas and Missouri, #3 in the midwest region out of 818 middleweights, and #1 out of 498 in the southeast.
That should say enough given that his documented amateur career dates back to just January of 2016.
Men’s Light Heavyweight (205 pounds): Toma Walton
Missouri’s Toma Walton is a name you probably haven’t heard before, but he is a man the world of MMA may soon be forced to pay attention to.
After dropping his first fight, Walton rebounded with a well-rounded series of stoppages (an 86-second first-round KO/TKO prior to nationals) and two more in the first during the tournament (one KO/TKO and a submission win over Nick Jewel in the finals,) taking just a combined two and a half minutes to move to 3-1 overall.
Men’s Heavyweight (265 pounds): Billy Swanson
Competing on his home promotion, Valor Fights, Tennessee’s Billy Swanson improved to 7-1 (five finishes) following the tournament and added UMMAF gold to his trophy case along with his VF belt after taking out Moses Espinosa with his heavy hands in just under three minutes in the only fight necessary to make him a national champion.
Swanson is ranked at #2 of 51 fighters in his state’s heavyweight division and “Big Sexy” is also #2 out of 330 in the southeast.
Men’s Super- Heavyweight (265+ pounds): Michael Snapp
The host state of Tennessee will also fill out the last spot on the U.S. team in the form of the biggest member, Michael Snapp. Snapp is presently 5-3 but the most recent ‘W’ on his record is the one that put a dream in motion. He needed just one minute and six seconds to put away Randall Ross by strikes and is now on a two-fight winning streak after scoring a submission in his last outing for Valor Fights.