Scott Tannenbaum takes the reigns as Team USA coach

Photo via Facebook: Scott Tannenbaum (centre) between students Corey Mullis (left) and Brian Cook (right)

The USA National Amateur MMA Team will travel overseas for the first time in November to take part in the 2016 IMMAF European Open Championships in Prague, Czech Republic. For the past three years Team USA has stood proudly as one of the most accomplished nations under the banner of the IMMAF World Championships, but will feature in an IMMAF continental championships for the  first time when the European Open welcomes all nations to compete, taking place from 22 to 26 November at Prague’s Arena of Sparta.

Over the past three IMMAF Amateur World Championships the USA has produced a total of seven Gold medal winners, including back-to-back world champions Jose Torres and Will Starks, under the coaching leadership of Bob Schirmer and Robert Hulett. Now, the reigns have been passed to Scott Tannenbaum, to lead the nation in to new territory at the European Open.

“I’ve been very impressed with their coaching,” Tannenbaum stated, “and the accomplishments that they’ve had with Team USA, especially since it is still such a young organization. They were able to put together a great group of talented fighters in a very short time. They definitely set the bar high.”

As the owner of TNT MMA in Phoenix, Arizona; an UMMAF Certified National Training Center, the USA MMA Federation (UMMAF) announced Tannenbaum as the national coach earlier this month. With a 3rd degree Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Black Belt, in addition to experience in Muay Thai and JKD, Tannenbaum has trained extensively with BJJ legends such as Rigan Machado, Royce Gracie and Rickson Gracie, plus renowned MMA coach and submission wrestling expert Erik Paulson. The Team USA coach works to a philosophy of modernizing and updating his Jiu Jitsu by incorporating wrestling, Judo and Sambo into his arsenal.

Coach Tannenbaum spoke to IMMAF.org and explained exactly how it feels to be leading one of the world’s most prominent nations in Amateur MMA.

“I could not be more honored to be offered this position with UMMAF. Not only is it a great privilege to work with such a fantastic organization, but to be the head coach for Team USA is something that I take very seriously and intend for our team to make quite an impression. My gym, TNT MMA Training Center, is the UMMAF headquarters for Arizona and I was approached by Ryan Brueggerman (UMMAF Director of Operations) who I know well and has been very supportive of my team and myself over the past couple years. Of course I jumped at the opportunity.”

Team USA will travel over 5000 miles to reach Prague, but Tannenbaum expects his seasoned team to adapt comfortably. The talent depth of IMMAF’s international amateur platform increases noticeably as each year passes. While the United States is widely recognized as the international hub for MMA, coach Tannenbaum has noted the significant developments that many nations have accomplished through commitment to grass roots and amateur development.

“The competitors that are competing in Prague have proven themselves to be truly focused and mentally tough. They are all pretty seasoned fighters and I expect they will rise to the challenge. Of course, I have high expectations but also realize other countries have some extremely tough competitors of their own. The talent pool will be very, very deep so I will do my best to prepare and coach Team USA and hopefully we will have a strong showing.”

At the inception of IMMAF’s World Amateur Rankings, Team USA emerged as no.1 on the international teams list. However, the top spot has since been taken over by Sweden who ruled supreme at the 2016 IMMAF Worlds in Las Vegas, with the USA now ranked 3rd between 2nd place South Africa and Bulgaria in 5th. Coach Tannenbaum acknowledges that the USA is looking towards reclaiming its place as the world’s top national team. With the World Championships taking place on home soil the US team was at capacity, but for Prague, a smaller squad than usual will be sharing the weight of expectation.

“That is of course our goal but more than that I am looking for each of our competitors to perform the best they can. We are one of the smaller teams that is making the trip to Prague so each of our fighters is pulling a lot of weight.”

Among the Team USA lineup will be 2016 bantamweight world silver medal winner David Evans, who features as the most decorated team member, and as a result, could find himself in a leadership role for teammates.

“I haven’t had an opportunity to work with David directly yet since he lives across the country. I have spoken to him and my impression is that he’s got his act together and very focused so I hope he will motivate the others and help guide them with what worked for him.”

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By IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran