Pictured: Tobias Harila (upper) faced Bulgaria’s Ferdun Osmanov in the 2017 IMMAF European Open Men’s Lightweight final – photo by Jorden Curran
By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
Members of the Swedish national amateur MMA team are in Wales this weekend for a sensational card pitting international representatives against one-another in what will serve as a compelling warm-up event heading towards the 2018 IMMAF European Championships which take place in Bucharest, Romania, from 17-23 June.
Five athletes, who at the end of 2017 were among the 33 names qualified for selection under the Swedish MMA Federation (SMMAF) to represent the country at this year’s international IMMAF championships, will face off against Welsh counterparts and fellow veterans of the IMMAF platform. The Swedish representatives will be cornered by SMMAF national team coach, Jorgen Hamberg, with four out of the five-man Welsh lineup being products of Chris Rees who last year joined the UKMMAF national team as coach for the 2017 IMMAF World Championships in Bahrain.
Sweden is renown for having produced the world’s top ranked national team. Earlier this month, reigning Women’s Strawweight World Champion Anna Astvik was also in action on British soil, picking up her latest victory since winning the IMMAF title.
Taking place on March 24 under the banner of Adrenalin Fight Nights, the standout fixture of the Wales vs. Sweden Cup pits UK national team veteran Scott Pedersen against one of the leading prospects of the Swedish squad, Tobias Harila, the current world number-one at Lightweight. The bout is a rescheduled collision with the pair having first been slated to face off last September in the North-West branch of the Cage Warriors Academy.
Already one of Europe’s top amateurs, Harila’s continued presence on the IMMAF circuit in 2017 saw him clinch five KO/TKO stoppages and achieve the Men’s Lightweight gold medal at the IMMAF Asian Open in Singapore. In addition, he picked up silver at the European Open and entered the 2017 World Championships as the number-one seed in the Men’s 155lb bracket.
In contrast, Pedersen made his international debut at the 2017 World Championships. Due to his impressive background with over a dozen prior outings, the Chris Rees Academy product was one of the most highly touted names among those who were competing for the first time. However, he was dealt an early exit from the tournament as he was drawn against the USA’s Quitin Thomas who secured a unanimous decision victory to advance to the next round and later become the 2017 IMMAF Lightweight World Champion.
Pedersen bounced back to winning ways in February, edging a split-decision over Austria’s 2015 world quarter-finalist, Bogdan Grad, a veteran of three IMMAF World Championships.
Bantamweight Ben Miles also made his debut for the UKMMAF team last year in Bahrain and picked up his first international victory with a tidy decision nod over Cypriot Stefanos Kyriakides. Making it to the final 16, he was eventually eliminated by Albania’s Florian Doskja who showcased fine form in going on to clinch a bronze medal. Miles now seeks his first victory of the year against Renato Vidovic. In 2016 Vidovic won gold at the IMMAF European Open and picked up silver in 2017 at the Asian Open. He is currently ranked third in the world at 135lbs.
The remaining three bouts see Welsh contenders facing a trio of Swede’s who, upon qualifying, are slated to represent the country for the first time this year. Shane Price, who came up short in Bahrain against juggernaut Light-Heavyweight World Champion Murtaza Ali, faces off against Andreas Gustafsson Berg. Elliot Thomas meets the charismatic Robin Roos after also competing at the 2017 Worlds, going the distance with Belgium’s bronze medal winning, Issa Isakov. In addition, Sweden’s number-two Bantamweight Jonny Tauma meets Sean Meany.
Furthermore, IMMAF.org has been informed that UKMMAF representative Nigel Burgess will be attending the event to discuss potential future partnership between Adrenalin promoter James Wallis and the national governing body