By Caoilte de Barra
Two-time IMMAF medalist Daniel “Spiderpig” Schalander is one of the most well rounded fighters on the MMA circuit. His skills range from fighting in the arena to coverage as accredited media not to mention his general involvement with local promotions. His life could be described as the ultimate MMA experience.
Schalander is famous on the Nordic MMA scene, specifically in Sweden, a nation he represented for the first time in IMMAF competition at the 2016 IMMAF World Championships. Since then he has collected a European Open gold medal and an Asian Open bronze medal. The experience of fighting at this level is something that he describes positively for anyone who wants to progress and ultimately transition to pro.
“Fighting in IMMAF is the perfect stepping stone towards a successful pro career in my opinion,” he began.
“It lets you test yourself, develop and grow, as you fight the top tier amateurs in the world. The skill level at IMMAF tournaments is a lot higher than you find on the low-level pro scene and the opportunity to fight a lot, and regularly, really helps grow your mentality and skill set.”
Return to competition
Schalander has a level headed approach towards elite competition. He has been absent from IMMAF competition since 2017 due to injury and it is unlikely that we will see the All-Stars Gym fighter return to action soon. However, he has got involved in the media side of MMA so he remains closely connected to the sport.
“Right now my main focus is on the media side of things. I have a neck injury that put me on the sidelines and as of now, I don’t have any plans to return to competition. It’s been over three years since my last fight and my life is just in such a different stage right now that I think it would be hard to restructure it again in a way that is needed to perform at my best.
“Fighting is not a game and you run a real risk of receiving permanent damage if you are not 100%. So if I’m not fully devoted to life as a professional fighter I don’t see the point for me to come back. When I was competing the only goal I had in life was to become the best fighter I could possibly be and to give myself the best opportunity of reaching that goal. Today that’s just not where I’m at mentally.”
Working in the media
Daniel’s media work is now visible on Kimura.se, where Daniel is Editor-in-Chief, as well as on MMA Viking. His journey spans over a decade, since he started by creating highlights videos in his mid-teens, then upskilling to specialise in this line of work.
“Back when I was 15 or so I used to make MMA highlight videos. The videos became quite successful which made a lot of the Swedish media sites reach out to me to join them.
“That in turn was the start of me developing my skills in video and photography. For me, it’s really been the ultimate experience as a fan of the sport. Not many people get to experience the sport so close to the action, both literally and figuratively, as I’ve had the privilege to do.” He added.
Schalander’s progression in his media career has brought him back to IMMAF competition in recent years. This time, in a new role as the team photographer for Sweden at events in 2018 and 2019.
“Yes, I was the team photographer for the Worlds in Bahrain 2018 and the Europeans in Rome in 2019. The experience was a lot less stressful than fighting myself, and I also didn’t have to cut any weight, which is a big plus.
“It was amazing to still “be a part of the team” and to experience all the camaraderie that comes with travelling to a tournament. Even better was the fact that I knew everybody on the team from being in it myself just a few years before.”
Schalander’s involvement with the Swedish set-up is no surprise when you realise that Schalander was the youngest photographer ever given credentials for a UFC event. This was headlined by none other than UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic. This was the Swede’s second taste of being credentialed with the UFC following his initial appearance in April that year working on general media duties for MMAViking.
“The event was UFC on Fuel TV 5 in Nottingham, it took place in September 2012. Being there for MMAViking our main interest at the event was the UFC debuts of Gunnar Nelson and Akira Corassani.”
“As for my photography skills at that event they were pretty terrible. I’m glad to say I developed a lot in the years following and about two years later I’d say they reached a point of decent quality.”
Sweden’s strong presence in IMMAF
After being around some of the best pro and amateur fighters in the world, Schalander believes that several factors play a role in Sweden’s amateur success. Noting that the structure in Sweden makes the sport accessible for all, this has been a contributing factor in the emergence of female competitors in particular.
“In Sweden, in general, when it comes to sports we have a system that is very inclusive. There are a lot of non-profit sports associations that make sports easily accessible to all members of society. This allows many people to try many different sports to find what they are good at and enjoy doing.”
“The structure of amateur competition is also very strong in Sweden with regular national competitions, giving fighters the opportunity to fight often. Equality and women in sports are also more prevalent here than in some countries. So we see a lot of success for female Swedish athletes in all sports and that has also been true for MMA as many of the Swedish medals have been won by women.”