The 2016 IMMAF European Open Championships has smashed all participation records following the inaugural event in 2015. Europe’s biggest Amateur MMA contest and the second biggest event on the IMMAF calendar is set to welcome over 170 athletes from across 30 national teams, making their way from across the globe to compete in Prague, Czech Republic.
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Of the 30 competing nations, 8 nations will be making their way to the European Open from outside of Europe. These 8 teams aiming to make an impact on European soil include Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Canada, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, South Africa, and the USA.
Azerbaijan made national history at the 2015 European Open through 115lb Strawweight competitor Lyudmila Sadirina (pictured above) who became the first female to represent her country under the IMMAF banner, and second a Bronze medal in the process.
The Azerbaijan MMA League has registered two competitors for the 2016 European in Prague, with AMMAL National Open Championship veterans Sanan Safarli (Men’s Flyweight) and Tural Azayev (Light Heavyweight) making their international debuts.
Represented by members of Team KHK MMA, the nation’s hotbed of international mixed martial arts development, the progressive Bahraini amateur team return to the European Open led by breakthrough competitor Hussain Abdulla (pictured above). The Flyweight competitor earned a sensational first podium finish for Bahrain at the 2015 European Open where he earned Bronze with victory over Sweden’s 2015 World Silver medallist Serdar Altas.
Completing the trio of athletes representing Bahrain in Prague will be Abdulla Alfayez (Men’s Lightweight) and Hamza Zrira (Men’s Bantamweight) who each progressed through the KHK National Amateur Team Tryouts.
With a history of success on the IMMAF World Championships stage including the likes of 2015 Gold medallist Saeid Mirzaei and two time World Silver medal winner Alexander Martinez, the Canadian Combat Alliance has registered one athlete to represent Canada at the European Open Championships with Featherweight competitor Ben Fouladi returning to the competition for a second time after facing an early exit in 2015 at the hands of Northern Ireland’s Ross McCorriston who went on to win the Silver medal.
It’s been over a year since Kazakhstan secured a podium finish under the IMMAF banner and the task of clinching a first medal at the European Open falls to Flyweight competitor Berik Shinaliyev. Nurtilek Konashov (Men’s Bantamweight), Mokhammad Malagov (Super Heavyweight) each earned Silver for Kazakhstan at the 2015 World Championships.
Lebanon surged this year at the 2016 IMMAF World Championships, as Super Heavyweight Charbel Diab completed a stunning run to become his country’s first world champion. Team Lebanon looks to continue its momentum at the 2016 European Open with fresh faced quartet of competitors including Roland Yacoubian (Men’s Bantamweight), Chaddad Alexandre (Heavyweight), Eli Zgheib (Men’s Featherweight), and Hussein El Harrach (Middleweight), who have each gathered competitive experience through through notable domestic promotion Cedar Fighting Championships.
At the 2016 European Open Championships, Pakistan will be in action for the very first time, represented by sole representative Abbas Khan competing in the Lightweight division. Khan will draw inspiration from Mixed Martial Arts Pakistan (PAKMMA) president Bashir Ahmad; a professional competitor himself who earned a latest victory last month under the banner of ONE Championship.
South Africa travel to Prague having most recently been hosts of the first IMMAF Africa Open Championships during September in Brakpan, South Africa. Success throughout 2016 at both the IMMAF Worlds and Africa Open saw South Africa rise to the no.2 position in the official IMMAF team rankings. Africa Open champion and no.5 ranked middleweight competitor Scott Kenee (pictured above), who defeated Sweden’s Heytham Rabhi to earn Gold in Brakpan, returns to action and will compete on foreign soil for the first time alongside welterweight team mate Riyaad Pandy.
Of all the competing nations from beyond European borders, none have been more successful than Team USA who will also be travelling to Prague for a first venture on foreign soil. Leading the American lineup as the team’s most decorated competitor is Featherweight David Evans who earned Silver at the 2016 IMMAF World Championships. Evans will be joined by World Championships veterans Carlos Castro (Men’s Flyweight), Orlando Jimenez (Men’s Featherweight) and Gustavo Gomez (Lightweight). The US athletes will also enjoy the presence of experienced coach Scott Tannenbaum who was recently announced as the latest edition to the UMMAF coaching staff.
By IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran