Pictured above: Team Austria at the 2017 IMMAF European Open in Sofia, Bulgaria
By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
In many nations around the world a lack of government recognition for the sport of mixed martial arts puts strain on universal development at the the grass roots level and sustaining international level participation for both athletes and coaches. At the opposite end of the spectrum is a surge in success for national federations who accomplish the target of government recognition, and with it, funding for athlete development and national team competition.
The exposure and acceptance of mainstream MMA in Germany has experienced peaks and troughs. Much of the sport’s significant progress is thanks to the UFC’s triumph in court which enabled top flight MMA to appear on free-to-air television. This was followed by encouraging signs from mainstream media platforms, such as Bild, who showed a keen interested in covering the promotion’s return to Germany last year in Hamburg.
However, the grass roots of German MMA remain neglected. Amateur MMA at the national level is quietly humming, sustaining itself, but this European superpower falls significantly behind nations such as the UK, Italy and Sweden, to name a few.
Fighting for the development of German MMA at its roots, in addition to maintaining a presence in international competition – the German Mixed Martial Arts Federation (GEMMAF).
Since the inaugural IMMAF World Championships in 2014 GEMMAF has never failed to contest with a small yet competitive and dedicated team of self funded athletes. The nation achieved its first and thus far only gold medal in 2014 as Daniela Kortmann earned the Women’s Strawweight world title. Since then, Women’s Featherweight veteran Julia Dorny has carried the nation to silver medal success at both the World and European Championships. Other standout representatives who have shown promise along the way include Pascal Hintzen and Wladislaw Keilbach.
“It has been very difficult to go out and sell you yourself and explain why you a worth the funding, it is not easy. But I am happy it somehow always worked out,” team veteran Julia Dorny explained, who touched on the high financial investment being worth the experience and athletic progression.
“Self funding is not easy. I am sure that if I make it to the finals this year, I will feel prepared to consider fighting professionally, even though it would not bring much money.”
Like many athletes, Dorny draws on support from a diverse list of contributors from friends and family to local businesses.
“I am so grateful to those who have support me all the way to European and world championships over the years. We are all thankful to our coaches, family and friends who believe in us and support us through good times and bad.”
For the 2017 IMMAF World Championships, Germany links up with close neighbours, Austria, as GEMMAF and the Austrian MMA Federation (AUTMMAF) combine their available resources for Bahrain where Germany will be represented by Dorny now joining the Women’s Lightweight bracket and Men’s Welterweight, Wladislaw Keilbach, who was forced to withdraw from the 2017 European Open tournament after an impressive opening victory.
“This year we are accompanying Team Austria; German athletes will be part of the camp in Bahrain. They are great coaches: mentally, technically and physically. Austria and Germany have always had a great connection. At the 2017 European Open they cornered German athletes and I saw how great they were with their own. We visited Austria for a short camp and we will continue to collaborate. They support and encourage us – it’s just what I need.”
Austria also produced its first IMMAF world champion in 2014 when heavyweight Hans Lackner claimed gold in the 265lb bracket. At subsequent championships Austria has been represented by team regulars such as Bogdan Grad and achieved bronze at the 2016 Worlds through heavyweight Damian Visenjak and bronze at the European Open championships secured by Florian Aberger.
AUTMMAF president Fritz Treiber will accompany the coaching duo of brothers Gerhard and Michael Ettl. The Austrian Federation has registered a substantial team of nine standout national athletes for the World Championships taking place this month. For more team information, live IMMAF World Championships results and brackets visit MyNextMatch.com
The 2017 IMMAF World Championships take place at Khalifa Sports City Arena from 12 to 19 November, as part of Brave International Combat Week, the 2017 World Championships are set to be the biggest event in the history of amateur MMA under IMMAF with more participants than ever before representing nations from all continents. 2017 marks the first year of the IMMAF Worlds taking place outside of Las Vegas, USA.