By Jake Smith
Since our inception, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation has witnessed hundreds of Alumni go on to sign with major promotions around the world. Here, we are going to take a look at five global stars who have competed in the IMMAFs.
ALESSIO DI CHIRICO
Alessio Di Chirico entered the world of amateur mixed martial arts through the IMMAFs. The 2014 World Championshipship tournament played host to all three of the Italian’s amateur bouts. After making light work of Cole Fetzner in the first round, finishing the Canadian with strikes, two decision wins against Karol Linowski & Eivind D.S. Kjønsvik clinched Di Chirico Gold in the light-heavyweight division.
After taking home IMMAF gold, Di Chirico turned pro. After amassing an impressive nine fight win streak, the UFC came calling.
After mixed fortunes in his first seven UFC bouts, Di Chirico scored his biggest victory to date at the start of 2021, with a highlight reel head kick knockout over Joaquin Buckley.
After amassing eight amateur wins on the regional scene, Jack Shore represented the UK in the 2015 IMMAF European Open Championships. It was clear from the outset that the Welshman would be a force to be reckoned with. Three dominant 1st round submissions secured Shore‘s place in the 2015 final against Norway’s Geir Kåre Cemsoylu Nyland. Nyland made it to the final bell but all judges scored the bout in Shore’s favour – extending his impressive unbeaten run to 12 bouts.
It then took only one more professional victory before Cage Warriors signed the top Welsh prospect to a professional contract. Over the next two years, ‘Tank’ tore through the Cage Warriors bantamweight division, claiming and defending the belt before signing with the UFC in 2019.
Shore’s dominance at 135lbs has transferred impeccably to the UFC, with rear-naked choke victories over Nohelin Hernandez & Aaron Phillips.
His next outing, against Hunter Azure, is set to be his toughest to date.
James ‘The Strabanimal’ Gallagher competed in the 2015 IMMAF World Championships. Following a 3rd round rear-naked choke against Sam Agushi, the then 5-0 amateur, was forced to withdraw from the competition due to injury. This would also prove to be Gallagher’s last amateur bout.
Gallagher’s self confidence and charismatic attitude established him as a huge fan favourite, and helped him catch the eye of several major promotions. Gallagher opted to sign with Bellator MMA and his star power quickly became apparent. In only his fifth bout for the promotion, Gallagher faced Ricky Bandejas in a bout many believed would see the winner enter title contention. Bandejas handed Gallagher his only professional loss to date, but that did not deter the young athlete.
The 24-year-old bounced back and four convincing victories and three main events later, the Strabane native is one of the biggest names in Bellator and is edging ever closer to his shot at the bantamweight title.
Leah McCourt is an incredibly decorated IMMAF athlete. In 2015, McCourt represented Northern Ireland and claimed lightweight gold in the European Open, the only gold medal for her country that year.
Nine months later, Leah replicated her success at featherweight, claiming gold in the 2016 IMMAF World Championships.
McCourt then made the decision to move into the professional game. After a loss to Rizlen Zouak in her first pro outing, McCourt picked up her first win when she faced fellow IMMAF Alumni, Manon Fiorot, in 2018.
‘The Curse’ was one of many European talents scooped up by Bellator. After victories over Hatice Özyurt and Kerry Hughes, the 28-year-old was set to face Judith Ruis on the main card of February 2020’s Bellator Europe Series 7, but following James Gallagher’s withdrawal from the main event weeks prior, McCourt’s bout was placed in the coveted main event slot, in front of a sold out 3Arena. The resulting win over Ruis catapulted McCourt to the upper echelons of the division.
Manon Fiorot first competed in the IMMAFs during the 2016 World Championships, suffering a loss in her first amateur bout and crashing out of the championship.
In 2017, Fiorot fought in European Open with a point to prove. After a victory over Eva-My Persson, she competed in a hard fought final, taking home silver. Seven months later Fiorot returned, with an even more developed skill set and taking home gold from the IMMAF World Championships.
Upon turning pro, she took part in EFC’s ‘The Fighter’ series, coming up trumps with victories over Cornelia Holm and Beckie Ainscough. The victories set Fiorot in good stead heading into the EFC flyweight division and following a third round stoppage of contender Mellony Geugjes, Fiorot found herself competing for her first major international title.
Fiorot faced a fierce champion in Amanda Lino. After a hard fought 25 minutes, the Frenchwoman was crowned the new EFC flyweight champion.
‘The Beast’ collected her second world title less than a year later. After signing with UAE Warriors, Fiorot competed twice in as many months before landing her shot at the title in November 2020, in a bout in which she dispatched Gabriela Campo with ease.
The 31-year-old made her UFC debut in January 2021. Her performance against Victoria Leonardo was nothing short of punch perfect and has left many eager to see how far she will go.