The 2019 Africa Open Championships under IMMAF – WMMAA concluded on May 25 in Johannesburg.
In comparison to record breaking events such as the European Open or World Championships, now regularly boasting over 300 competing athletes from across the vast IMMAF – WMMAA global membership, the Africa Open is recognized as one of the smaller, more intimate championships of the international platform.
Nevertheless, the Africa Open serves its own unique purpose as an event showing annual growth in providing a platform for men and women of African nations in the developmental stages of cultivating, organizing and streamlining national talent at the amateur level of MMA.
The Africa Open Championships are an opportunity for these nations to see their athletes enjoy a taste of safe and regulated competition in a friendly sporting environment.
Once again hosted by MMA South Africa (MMASA), the continent’s longest running and most established national body, the fourth installment of the Africa Open enjoyed a participation growth of 52% following the 2018 event, welcoming athletes from Cameroon, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and host nation South Africa, in addition to national teams from the Czech Republic, Lebanon, France, Spain and Bahrain.
No strangers to success at the Amateur MMA World Championships and continental events such as the European, Asian and Africa Open Championships, Bahrain edged out South Africa this year in Johannesburg seeing four gold medal winners take to the podium with the host nation seeing three champions crowned.
Furthermore, while the likes of Jakub Tichota (men’s lightweight) and World Championships bronze medalist Enrique Hecher Sosa (men’s featherweight) achieved gold medals for the Czech Republic and Spain, and Lebanon’s Khaled Afara (men’s flyweight) achieved bronze, signs of the event’s root ambition could be seen with representatives of Cameroon and DRC also making their way to the podium, proving the emerging potential of their respective nations.
After winning the 2017 Africa Open title and competing at the World Championships, Eliezer Kubanza (pictured above) returned as the Congo’s standout amateur mixed martial artist to win the middleweight title for a second time. Men’s featherweight competitor Chadrack Lomboto also carried the DRC flag to the podium, earning silver at 145lbs.
The competitiveness of Cameroon was showcased for a second year at the Africa Open, the nation achieved four medals including 2 silver and 2 bronze.
Director of Regulatory Affairs, Marc Goddard, attended the Africa Open for the first time and issued high praise as he commended the continent’s up and coming athletes and regulatory body leaders playing their part in unifying progression for the sport of MMA.
“Amazing week here in South Africa at the IMMAF open. One thing has stood out and struck me this week that I must commend. The attitude, commitment and behavior of some of the emerging teams has been truly heart warming and so encouraging. I see these young kids literally fighting for their dreams to move on to bigger and better things.
“The attitude & development of African nations like Cameroon, Democratic Republic of Congo and of course South Africa has been an absolute pleasure to be around – their conduct and respect must be commended, I’m so thankful and hopeful for these future athletes.
“We all have a collective responsibility to raise this sport in the right way – officials, coaches, promoters and of course the fighters themselves. We have enough negativity in this World so we must give light to those who are striving to do the right thing and this week it has been shown in abundance by these youngsters – an absolute pleasure to be around and you have more of my respect and thanks than you’ll ever know.
“Look out MMA world – the African nations are coming.”
The city of Rome serves as the next stop on the IMMAF – WMMAA continental championships circuit as Italy and national body FIGMMA host the 2019 European Open and Junior European Open Championships from 18-23 June, with record breaking participation for the event set to welcome over 300 athletes.
By IMMAF.org lead writer: Jorden Curran
Click HERE for the full list of 2019 Africa Open medalists.