By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
Mixed Martial Arts is on the rise in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The glamour and excitement of the world’s fastest growing sport has captured the region’s attention, resulting in a growing appetite for an MMA scene.
For newly established promotion, Reign MMA Championship, the incentive for taking MMA to Dubai is to plant a stake in the ground for an amateur talent platform and why it is essential for the sport. What better way to start than by presenting a crop of amateur MMA’s leading international competitors.
“Mixed Martial Arts needs to grow in a healthy direction throughout the entire region,” Reign co-founder Karl Keller told IMMAF.org. The global explosion of mainstream MMA saw the sport essentially evolve in reverse, widespread promotion of the professional level served as the basis of its success, but overshadowed awareness for regulation and the need for grass roots nourishment of amateur talent that should provide a structured pathway for athletes to follow and better prepare themselves for future success.
Reign MMA Championship aims to bring this awareness to the UAE with an example of the talent cultivated by the fast growing appeal of top flight amateur MMA, and how it stems from domestic progression.
“MMA is so much more than two opponents trying to destroy each other,” Keller added, “much like the western world needed to learn in the 1990’s, the region needs to catch up, and it starts with Dubai. We wanted to build the foundations of a long term growing brand and institution starting with a good base of amateurs and slowly working our way up to the pros.”
Reign’s amateur MMA showcase is set for March 9 in Dubai and will feature a premier lineup pitting the best of Ireland’s famous SBG gym team against top exports of the MMA Poland Association, including standout medal winners of the IMMAF-WMMAA platform, such as Ryan Spillane, Ireland’s heavyweight gold medalist of the IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships.
“Sports stars, A-list actors and the world’s elite are common sights in Dubai. What the public doesn’t see is the hunger and drive that it takes to get there,” Keller explained, suggesting the event’s symbolic nature in relation to the vast success associated with Dubai. “We thought we would take two of the world’s best amateur teams and give them the opportunity to showcase what they can do on a “Dubai” stage.”
Representing the Republic of Ireland and the Irish Amateur MMA Association (IMMAA), Ryan Spillane ascended to become the world’s number-one heavyweight in 2018, winning gold medals at both the IMMAF European Open Championships and IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships. On March 9, he takes on Poland’s world bronze medalist Bartek Zaczeniuk in a rematch of their World Championships semi-final encounter, where Spillane secured an ankle lock submission.
Further IMMAF platform veterans joining the likes of Spillane, Colin Meagher and world bronze medalist Dee Begley, will be Iceland’s Bjorn Lúkas Haraldsson, middleweight silver medalist and a highlight reel performer of the 2017 IMMAF World Championships. In addition, young Frenchman Asaël Adjoudj continues the early stages of his competitive MMA development, transitioning from Muay Thai and described by SBG coach John Kavanagh as “one of the best strikers I’ve ever seen.”
Meanwhile, Poland’s chosen athletes find themselves selected by none other than Martin Lewandowski, head of Poland’s own KSW organisation, a powerhouse European MMA promotion. Joining world bronze medalist Zaczeniuk will be up and coming standouts: Michal Pezda, Krzysztof Gapski, Tomek Kamiński and Barbara Grabowski.