Finland’s strength in numbers at the IMMAF European Open

For the IMMAF European Open Championships, Finland’s national amateur MMA team will make their way to the UK as the largest competing body with a squad of 18 fighters, including the most diverse Women’s lineup spanning five athletes across four weight divisions.

With Finland currently ranked 7th as a nation in the IMMAF World Amateur Rankings, Jukka Paananen, Chairman of the Finnish Mixed Martial Arts Federation (Suomen Vapaaotteluliitto), believes that Finland can emerge from the European Open as the most successful team of the competition. He commented, “I am very happy that we have such big team competing in European Championships, Birmingham. During the last few years I have been admiring the level of Finnish amateurs and I believe they are all capable to stand on the podium when the competition is over. I am totally convinced that we can be the most successful team in European Championships.” 

The Scandinavian countries have been a fixture in IMMAF from very early on, with Sweden being the founding nation, and the Finnish Mixed Martial Arts Federation stands as one of IMMAF’s longest running members. The federation also stands as one of the oldest and most established of MMA governing bodies, founded in 2004.

With around 66 listed gyms as members, the FMMAF has a strong pool of talent from which to select. Its well established processes in areas that include competitor and gym licensing, contracts and insurance,  Anti-doping, competitor pathways and rules and regulation, provide a structured framework within which athletes may develop.

With a hugely successful presence at the inaugural IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA in 2014, Finland claimed three medals with Saku Ronkainen (Men’s Flyweight, bronze), Jari Illikainen (Men’s Featherweight, gold) and Aleksi Nurminen (Welterweight, gold). In July of this year Finland returned to the Las Vegas based World Championships to claim a further three medals as Women’s Strawweight Minna Grusander won the gold medal and world amateur championship, Tuuka Repo claimed silver in the Men’s Lightweight division and Juho Laitinen took bronze at Middleweight.

Grusander has since gone on to make a successful professional debut in Finland’s domestic MMA scene with Repo having also made the decision to turn professional.

Both 2014 flyweight bronze medallist Saku Rankainen and 2015 middleweight runner up Juho Laitinen will be returning to compete in the European Open next week between November 19 and 22 at the University of Wolverhampton’s Walsall Campus Sports Centre.

Finland’s national MMA team for the IMMAF European Open Championships are listed below.

You can find profile information about each competitor on the FMMAF’s Facebook page, Suomen Vapaaotteluliitto

Anette Österberg – Women’s Flyweight

Inka Auvinen – Women’s Flyweight

Varpu Rinne – Women’s Bantamweight

Sanna Merta – Women’s Featherweight

Miia Isola – Women’s Lightweight

Sini Koivunen – Women’s Lightweight

Saku Ronkainen – Men’s Flyweight

Abdul Hussein – Men’s Bantamweight

John Tedeschi – Men’s Bantamweight

Jani Hã¤gg – Men’s Featherweight

Joel Arolainen – Men’s Featherweight

Niko Kopone – Men’s Lightweight

Toni Lampinen – Men’s Lightweight

Juho Kahranaho – Welterweight

Jussi Pirttikangas – Welterweight

Juho Laitinen – Middleweight

Perparim Salihu – Middleweight

Max Westerlund – Light-Heavyweight

For more about the Finnish MMA Federation visit www.vapaaottelu.fi (Finnish)

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