Swedish amateur middleweight Rostem Akman may be the perfect example of what the IMMAF’s amateur platform is all about; a competetive grass roots developmental scene where you are not defined by your losses, perhaps not even by victories, but in your display of patience, progression and dedication to being an active and evolving competitor.
At the 2015 IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA in July, Akman was eliminated early on from the 185lb division in Las Vegas as he was defeated in the opening round via knockout. Four months later Akman returned to IMMAF competition at the European Open in Walsall, England, and the Swede established himself as an overwhelming force in the process of claiming the gold medal – click HERE for the full breakdown of Akman’s European Open triumph.
“Honestly,” he explained, “the best thing about the Europeans was the medal ceremony. It felt like the Olympics. I know how good I am and even though I lost in Vegas, I was like, give me one more chance and I will show everybody that I will dominate everyone. It felt good to show my character. I don’t give up.
“I did not do anything different in training [following the World Championships], but mentally made a few small fixes. I had more hunger and more respect for MMA, in that anything can happen.”
With a seemingly effortless display of power when tying up with opponents, a striking factor in what made Akman such an effective competitor was his caveman-like strength.
“It’s not the first time I’ve heard that,” he laughed. “Many of my opponents have come up to me after the fights and are like ‘wow, you were really strong’.”
Now 24-years-old, Rostem was born and bred in Sweden, but the Akman family first made their way to Scandinavia in the mid 80s when leaving Kurdistan in search of a peaceful environment where they could live happily. Rostem’s introduction to martial arts came in 2008 when he started out in one of the strongest disciplines among Eastern Europe’s MMA elite, the Russian art of Combat Sambo. A short while later he took up Mixed Martial Arts but faced significant hurdles early on that resulted in a hiatus between 2009 to 2012.
“I’m born in Sweden, but my parents and siblings immigrated from Northern Kurdistan 1984. The Kurds in Turkey were under oppression so my parents decided to move to Sweden were we could live in peace and harmony.
“I started with Combat Sambo in 2008 and did that for 6 months. Then I started to train in MMA. By the end of 2009 I got injured and did not come back to the sport before the end of 2012. Coming back I weighed 230 pounds and before that I was 175 pounds. So the journey back was kind of bumpy but I have evolved big time now and I’m evolving every single day. I believe the sky is the limit.”
Rostem made Swedish MMA history in being the first amateur mixed martial artist to be nominated in the Swedish MMA Awards, following his success at the IMMAF European Open.
While working part time with a customer service company Akman still has unfinished business as an Amateur competitor. This year he is focusing his momentum on a return to the World Championships where he will be targeting the IMMAF title that eluded him in Las Vegas.
“If I win the World Championship then I will have accomplished everything I want as an amateur. I will probably go pro after that, but we will see. Besides that, I have been nominated as the breakthrough fighter of the year at the Swedish Martial Arts Awards and I’m the first Amateur MMA fighter ever to be nominated. I hope I win that as well.”
Competing under the national juristiction of the Swedish MMA Federation (SMMAF) Akman is among the leading lights in his country’s national Amateur MMA team who achieved a total of 12 podium finishes across the European Open and World Championships in 2015. With government backing, the SMMAF operate as one of the most effective MMA governing bodies in the world, as well as being the founding national federation of IMMAF.
“They’ve done a very good job for us (the SMMAF). It’s really easy for us to compete. You can compete every three weeks back home and that is a huge benefit for us in developing experience and skill.”
The Swedish team achieved two gold medals in 2015 and placed seven runners up who took home silver. 125lb standout Anja Saxmark is among the most consistent veterans of the female flyweight division, achieving silver at the both the World Championships and European Open with five of her teammates taking a silver medal of their own. However, Akman believes that a little extra confidence could see the already great team achieve even more top place finishes at the 2016 World Championships later this year. ( – Click HERE for IMMAF.org’s exclusive feature with Anja Saxmark)
“We do have a great national team with high level guys. Winning the Swedish National Championships is not an easy thing. One thing the Swedes have to improve is their confidence.
“I have big expectations for the team, and you will see now in Vegas. We will get some medals for sure.”
Written by IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran