Haraldur Nelson expresses pride in Team Iceland success: “Some say it’s the Viking gene”

Iceland’s IMMAF European Open champions, Sunna Rannveig and Bjarki Thor Palsson.

Haraldur Nelson, President of the Icelandic MMA Federation, has expressed his pride following Iceland’s competitive debut under the IMMAF banner at last month’s inaugural European Open Championships.

IMMAF discussed prior to the European Open that Team Iceland were soon to announce themselves on the amateur world stage with Mjolnir Gym, Team Iceland’s base of operations.  Mjolnir has strong repuation as training base to the likes of UFC welterweight, Gunnar Nelson, and UFC interim featherweight champion, Connor McGregor.

Team Iceland lived up to that repuation and finished the week as one of the top-five most successful teams, claiming two gold medals and one bronze.

Haraldur Nelson stated, “We at the Icelandic MMA Federation are extremely proud of the success of our national team at the 2015 IMMAF European Open. Taking home two gold and one bronze is of course more than anyone can expect from a country with a population of little more then 300-thousand and no local MMA tournaments. It should also be noted that our two IMMAF European Open champions fought in the biggest and hardest men and women’s divisions. Bjarki Thor Palsson won the welterweight division and fought 5 fights in 4 days, and Sunna Rannveig Davidsdottir also won the biggest women’s division, taking gold in the flyweight category. This is proof of how good the training is at their Mjölnir Gym, but all the Icelandic fighters came from that gym. This is the same gym that the only Icelandic UFC fighter, Gunnar Nelson, fights out of, and the same gym Conor McGregor trains at on a regular basis. Right now there are about 3-4 more Icelandic gyms starting MMA training, so there is much more to come from the Icelandic national team.”

In the Women’s 125lb categroy Sunna Rannveig carved an impressive route to the final with a dominating performance over Italy’s llaria Norcia and a lop-sided TKO finish against Michaela Dostalova of the Czech Republic.

In the final, Rannveig secured a second round TKO stoppage on the ground by overpowering Sweden’s Anja Saxmark; a 2015 World Championships silver medalist and favourite to claim European Open Gold.

In the Men’s 170lb brackett it was Bjarki Thor Palsson who left a trail of destruction from November 19th to 22nd. Five victories saw Palsson display tremendous skill and stamina with three submission stoppages, each with a different hold, and two of which came on the same day of Nov. 20.

In the semi- final Palsson proved to have the greater endurance as he overtook the UK’s Hardeep Rai via TKO in the second round. This made way for a well matched final on November 22 where Palsson went the distance with Bulgaria’s Dorian Dermendzhiev to claim a unanimous decision win.

Heavyweight Petur Oskarsson earned a bronze medal after his submission defeat at the hands of Sweden’s Imran Smajic who went on to claim the silver medal spot. In the quarter-final Oskarsson took a submission victory of his own with a first round Armbar victory against Bulgaria Yordan Ivanov.

As a collective, the Scandinavian nations of Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Norway were a dominating presence at the European Open with some of the largest teams of fighters and a high volume of victories. As Nelson highlighted, the population of Iceland is incredibly small, and with very few populating the country’s MMA scene, so how has Iceland’s home grown talent become so effective at an international level?

While Nelson credited the level of training delivered by the coaches of Team Iceland and Mjölnir Gym, he suggested simply that, “Some say it’s the Viking gene, and Scandinavians are often strong athletes.”

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