Pictured, left to right: Julia Dorny, Wladislaw Keilbach, Clemens Werner, Eduard Kexel, Anna Gaul
By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
Last month, IMMAF’s 2018 European Championships was the platform for Germany’s biggest success since Daniela Kortmann won gold at the inaugural World Championships in Las Vegas, 2014.
For the next three years, Germany remained in the shadow of European counterparts such as Sweden, Finland, France, the UK and Ireland, while national team mainstay Julia Dorny battled hard to take Germany back to the top of the podium, clinching as high as silver medals at the World and European Championships.
Last year, at just 24-year-old, Clemens Werner was elected President of the German MMA Federation (GEMMAF) and within a year has steered the national body to its first multiple gold medal haul at an IMMAF championships.
Dorny, Germany’s perennial top contender under the IMMAF banner, was back in action at Euro18, taking place from 17-23 June in Bucharest where she finally broke through to achieve the gold medal that had eluded her in the Women’s Featherweight division. With standout performances in the semi-final and gold medal decider, the 28-year-old showcased her Judo roots to great effect, in addition to further developed striking that made effective use of her size and reach.
Prior to Dorny’s crescendo in the finals of the Senior European Championships, team Germany had cemented itself as the second most successful nation of the inaugural IMMAF European Youth Championships, for Junior athletes age 18-20. While the Republic of Ireland topped the Junior medal table, Germany sensationally achieved an unexpected second place with two gold medals and one silver.
19-year-old Anna Gaul set the tone as she went the distance in a hard fought contest with Austria’s Lea Maria Zinkanell to earn the Women’s Jr Flyweight gold via a split-decision. In the Men’s Jr Lightweight bracket, it was 20-year-old Eduard Kexel who emerged as the nation’s top performer throughout the championships.
Kexel made history as the first German to win an IMMAF title in the Men’s ranks. In the process of earning the gold, he went the distance across all three bouts, accumulating 9 rounds of experience with unrelenting energy and a forceful pace to seal Unanimous Decision triumphs over Mateo Buzzico (Italy), Adam Darby (Ireland) and finally, Zubair Gadzhiev (Bahrain).
Men’s Jr Welterweight competitor, Wladislaw Keilbach, bolstered Germany’s inspiring medal tally with a silver medal, besting Bahrain’s Yousif Sayyar via a split-decision to advance to the final where he met eventual gold medalist, Welshman Roan Crocker of team UK.
As a certified IMMAF official, Clemens Werner is a multiple time judge of international IMMAF championships. The now 25-year-old took over the helm of GEMMAF last September, taking on the responsibility following the departure of former President, German actor Raphaël Vogt.
“I am thrilled about the success,” he said, speaking with IMMAF.org. “With a team of six athletes we won three gold medals and 1 silver medal which is a huge improvement compared to our previous results at IMMAF tournaments. In my eyes, these championships mark the restart of the GEMMAF and show that Germany is a serious competitor now. The results can be a booster for the reputation of the GEMMAF, not only in Germany, but also in the international MMA scene. We plan on using this momentum to progress further.”
The German duo of Junior gold medalists joined the national team as newcomers to the IMMAF platform. Both are products of the all new national competition circuit, established this year by GEMMAF to raise participation, build and guide the progression of domestic talent under safe and regulated conditions.
“I am sure that the increase in participation was the key to success for the European Championships. In 2018 we held regional championships in Germany for the first time and established a ranking system for athletes. The higher frequency of GEMMAF events allows the athletes to gain more experience within a safe environment under IMMAF standards and allows us to spot talents who can compete in the IMMAF tournaments. Four out of six of our European Championships team were spotted in these regional championships.”
The GEMMAF President added that opportunities for these German athletes may not have been possible if not for the close relationship with the Austrian MMA Federation, headed by Dr. Fritz Treiber and coaching brothers Gerhard and Michael Ettl, who provide coaching assistance and invaluable sponsorship enabling athletes from both nations to compete. The national cooperation saw the Austrian coaches collaborate with longtime GEMMAF coach Lutz Heyden, plus Harry Werz.
Team Austria itself picked up a total of four medals. in addition to Junior silver medalist Lea Maria Zinkanell, Super-Heavyweight Damian Vasenjak picked up a silver medal, and Senior Lightweight Bogdan Grad eliminated Sweden’s Navid Badi and Irish standout Ciaran Clarke to reach the semi-finals, eventually earning bronze after a narrow split decision loss to Estonia’s Kaupo Kokamägi. Also, Senior Heavyweight Besart Berisha forced a TKO stoppage of Ireland’s Padraig Kelleher for a bronze medal.
Werner has wasted no time in establishing groundbreaking momentum for GEMMAF and is continuing the push for recognition under the German Olympic Sports Confederation (DOSB – see previous interview HERE).
Furthermore, following the amalgamation of IMMAF and the WMMAA, heads of GEMMAF met with national counterparts GAMMA, during the week of the European Championships. The meeting, hosted by IMMAF, laid the foundation for future discussions on how the organisations may collaborate for the strength and betterment of German MMA.
“I hope that we can use the momentum that we created through the European Championships and continue our work to ensure a sustainable development of the sport in Germany. We are creating and enforcing unified rules and regulations, building an amateur competition structure, offering educational courses and so on. Ultimately, we want to improve the image of the sport in Germany and become a member of the German Olympic Committee (DOSB). Since forming the new board in October 2017, we are making big leaps into the right direction and I am sure that we are on the road to success.”