Pictured above: Ferdun Osmanov (Bulgaria) and Tobias Harila (Sweden) battle in the 2017 European Open lightweight final
By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
2017 is set to be the biggest year to date for amateur MMA competition under the IMMAF banner with 4 international championship events. The year kicked off with the 2017 Prague European Open in March and will be followed by the Singapore Asian Open next month, the Johannesburg African Open, and will conclude with this year’s IMMAF World Championships in Bahrain.
Next month’s Asian Open Championships in Singapore take place from June 12 -16. The introduction of further continental competition presents added opportunities for nations and athletes to acquire ranking points and turn up the heat on one another. In the race to be the world’s foremost amateur MMA standouts, two nations in particular have created peloton as front runners, these nations being Sweden and Bulgaria.
Since the 2015 European Open Sweden and Bulgaria have been locked in a rivalry that has seen the two national teams consistently produce championship winning amateur talent across multiple weight brackets. Currently, within the official IMMAF team rankings, Sweden lead with 16505 accumulated points to Bulgaria’s 11061. The Asian Open Championships provide the opportunity both for Sweden to strengthen its grip on the world rankings and for Bulgaria to remain hot on the heels of the Scandinavians.
Scroll down for a breakdown of how Sweden and Bulgaria compare in the top ranked positions.
1. Aleksandra Toncheva – 1691 points
2. Fannie Redman – 542 points
Bulgarian amateur pioneer Aleksandra Toncheva has transitioned to professional MMA since retaining the European Open title in 2016. The world amateur champion, who remained dominant and undefeated throughout her IMMAF tenure, remains in the number-1 ranked position until points earned begin to diminish 12 months from the date of her last amateur bout. In Toncheva’s absence, Sweden’s Fannie Redman (pictured above) made her debut as one of several newcomers to the division and triumphed in the 115lb bracket to inherit the European Open crown. Currently, the Swede’s closest rival is the experienced Romanian Raluca Dinescu, currently ranked in the no.3 position.
1. Gabriella Ringblom – 1915 points
Arguably the most exciting of the Women’s divisions, former pound-for-pound no.1 and reigning world champion Gabriella Ringblom (pictured above) sits in the top ranked position and has thus far been unchallenged by Bulgarian rivals. Instead the division’s top contenders provide some of the most hotly contested amateur bouts featuring former world silver medalist and fellow Swede Anja Saxmark (ranked no.4), Finnish world and European Open silver medalist Anette Österberg (no.3) and from Hungary the reigning European Open champion Alexandra Kovacs (no.2).
1. Cornelia Holm – 2147 points
Pound-for-pound number 1 Cornelia Holm (above, left) has a firm grip on the Women’s bantamweight division. Sweden’s reigning IMMAF world champion currently enjoys one of the longest win streaks in amateur MMA but has since revealed her decision to turn professional after retaining the European Open title earlier this year. Holm’s long time Norwegian rival Camilla Mannes (above, right) occupies the no.2 ranked position with Italian Lucrezia Ria in third and exciting French newcomer Manon Fiorot who advanced to the no.4 position as this year’s European Open silver medalist.
1. Ofelia Nikolaeva – 542 points
Bulgaria’s Ofelia Nikolaeva is one of the most impressive competitors to grace the Women’s lightweight division since its introduction in 2015. As a young newcomer the 21-year-old made her international amateur debut on home soil at the 2017 European Open and claimed the 155lb division gold medal with a TKO stoppage win over Hungarian Nora Nagy followed by a unanimous decision victory in the final against Finland’s Sanna Hyytiäinen.
1. Serdar Altas – 1369 points
6. Nikolay Ivaylov – 381 points
For Sweden’s Serdar Altas, the journey to becoming the world’s top ranked Men’s flyweight competitor has not been a short one. The 2015 world silver medalist was dealt early exits from both the 2015 European Open and 2016 World Championships, as he suffered upset defeats in the opening round of bouts. Nevertheless, the 22-year-old was back on track by September 2016 and clinched gold at the African Open Championships and rounded off the year by winning the 2016 European Open. 20-year-old Bulgarian up and comer Nikolay Ivaylov sits in the no.6 ranked position having earned the 2017 European Open silver medal winner.
3. Renato Vidovic – 604 points
Sweden’s Renato Vidovic (above, left) could soon ascend from the number 3 ranked position to number 1, if he is to achieve victory at next month’s Asian Open. Above him currently sits Italy’s Marco Zannetti (777 points), who Vidovic defeated in the 2016 European Open final, and Finland’s former world and European Open champion Abdul Hussein (1195 points) how has since an undefeated start to his professional career.
2. Hoger Salih – 706 points
3. Daniel Schalander – 650 points
5. Delyan Georgiev – 602 points
With the UK’s number 1 ranked Men’s featherweight Shoaib Yousaf (964 points) having turned professional following his 2016 World Championships triumph, Sweden occupy the next two highest positions with 2017 European Open bronze medalist Hoger Salih and 2016 European Open champion Daniel Schalander. Promising Bulgarian newcomer Delyan Gerogiev (pictured above) clinched the no.5 position following his debut appearance for Bulgaria’s national amateur team as he won gold at the 2017 European Open, besting all 5 opponents via unanimous decision.
1. Ferdun Osmanov – 1778 points
2. Tobias Harila – 946 points
20-year-old pound-for-pound standout Ferdun Osmanov (above) is on top of the Men’s lightweight category, arguably the toughest of all divisions. The 2016 world silver medalist has since won back-to-back European Open titles and is trailed by Sweden’s 2017 European Open runner up and Africa Open champion Tobias Harila.
2. Nikolay Nikolov – 1164 points
5. Oskar Biller – 387 points
On par with the lightweights, IMMAF’s welterweight division stands as the busiest and most competitive international bracket. With the USA’s two-time world champion Will Starks having made a successful professional debut under Titan FC, Bulgaria’s 19-year-old Nikolay Nikolov (above, centre left) is the highest ranked amateur in the no.2 spot and has taken the international scene by storm, winning back-to-back European Open titles in 2016 and 2017. The undefeated youngster is is riding an 8-0 win streak in IMMAF championships tournaments with no.5 ranked Swedish rival Oskar Billar (above, far left) having taken this year’s European Open silver medal.
1. Rostem Akman – 1047 points
6. Hetham Rabhi – 396 points
7. Valeri Atanasov – 388 points
Another highly competitive bracket, the Middleweight division’s top spot is there for the taking with Sweden’s top ranked Rostem Akman (above) having completed an impressive professional debut. Neither Bulgaria or Sweden feature within the remaining top 5 positions of which are currently occupied by New Zealand’s 2016 world champion Byron Chivers (no.2), Italy’s 2017 European Open champion Dario Bellandi (no.3) South Africa’s African Open champion Scott Kenee (no.4) and the USA’s 2015 world champion Brendan Allen (no.5).
2. Tencho Karaenev – 947 points
4. Anton Turkalj – 562 points
5. Robin Enontekio – 529 points
Despite having not yet captured the elusive gold medal, perennial top contender and two-time world silver medalist Tencho Karaenev (above) has cemented himself as the world’s no.2 amateur at 205lbs, behind Irish world champion Matthew Sheehan, having never failed to secure himself a place on the podium. Sweden’s Anton Turkalj entered into the top 5 rankings upon winning the 2017 European Open and fellow Swede Robin Enontekiö sits in fifth.
1. Daniel Galabarov -1489 points
2. Irman Smajic – 1409 points
3. Daniel Yankov – 342 points
In recent years the number 1 ranked heavyweight position has been one of the most hotly contested. Currently, Sweden’s 2016 world champion Irman Smajic occupies the no.2 slot while Bulgaria’s Galabarov (above, left) pulls ahead as the front runner after becoming the first athlete to be crowned European Open champion for a third time. Bulgaria’s Daniel Yankov (above, right) steps into the third place position after earning 2017 European Open silver.
2. Atanas Krastanov – 864 points
4. Irman Smajic – 562 points
As the only male athlete to win gold medals in separate weight divisions, 2016 heavyweight world champion Irman Smajic (above) stepped up to the +265lb super-heavyweight bracket this year and clinched the 2017 European Open title, his first after being forced to settle for silver in the two previous years. Smajic climbed to the no.4 spot, now as a top ranked contender in two separate divisions. In the number 2 spot is 19-year-old Bulgarian juggernaut Atanas Krastanov who claimed the 2016 European Open title in his debut campaign, and this year earned silver. Just ahead in the top position sits Lebanon’s 2016 world champion Charbel Diab with 868 points.