By Jake Smith
We are living in the age of ‘super fights’. Champions regularly switch weight categories to secure a legacy as one of greatest of all time. Bouts are taking place that, while they may not make sense in rankings, need to happen because of fan demand. The IMMAF have played host to some major amateur bouts over the years. There have been many top prospects face each other at early stages in their career. There have also been many ‘what if’ moments. ‘What would happen if these two athletes competed in the IMMAF at the same time?’, ‘What would happen if they met in the cage in the professional ranks?’ Here, we take a look at 5 dream bouts between IMMAF Alumni currently advancing through their pro careers.
Leah McCourt vs Manon Fiorot 2
McCourt and Fiorot collected gold at the IMMAF World Championships in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Before shining on the World Championships stage, both athletes first emerged as the IMMAF European Open, when McCourt earned her first international gold in 2015 ahead of Fiorot who earned the silver medal in 2017. The pair have since gone on to establish themselves as two of the biggest prospects in European MMA.
McCourt and Fiorot have met once already when, then at 1-1, McCourt welcomed Fiorot to the professional ranks, at Cage Warriors 94. After a hard fought 15 minutes, McCourt took the bout via a split decision.
This would be the last of McCourt’s Cage Warriors career, with the Northern Irish athlete opting to sign a multi-fight deal with global promotion Bellator. In her first two Bellator bouts, McCourt needed only 8 minutes to extend her winning streak to four. In February 2020, ‘The Curse’ fought in the biggest night of her MMA career so far; in a main event slot against Judith Ruis at a sold out 3 Arena Dublin.
McCourt is quickly becoming one of the biggest faces in Bellator. As her stature continues to rise, so does the level of competition and her next bout is likely to be against a title contender.
After her loss to McCourt, Fiorot took part in Extreme Fighting Championship’s (EFC) ‘The Fighter’. A show with a similar format to the UFC’s ‘The Ultimate Fighter’, in which athletes compete against each other in exhibition bouts . After an impressive performance winning the show, French national Fiorot signed with EFC and she needed only one opportunity to show her dominance in the division before she was given a world title shot against Amanda Lino. Her first world title left Fiorot wanting more and she signed with UAE Warriors, eager to show her prowess under a different promotional banner. Once again, Fiorot tore through the division, being crowned champion after three fights.
The UFC then came calling and ‘The Beast’ picked up where she left off. She shone on Fight Island with her punch perfect UFC debut turning a lot of heads and she looks set to add a third world title to her collection.
Jose Torres vs Muhammad Mokaev
This dream fight matches the first ever athlete to win back-to-back IMMAF world titles against the new kid on the block. The Legend vs The Prodigy. The USA vs the UK. Jose Torres vs Muhammad Mokaev is a contest which would excite MMA fans all over the world.
Both men showed they were a cut above their rivals in all their IMMAF competitions. Torres, a two times USA National Champion, was crowned IMMAF Bantamweight World Champion in 2014 and 2015. After his final tournament win, ‘Shorty’ turned professional in 2016 and tore through the Titan FC’s Flyweight and Bantamweight divisions, being crowned the promotion’s double champion in 2017. After defending both belts, the UFC came calling, after 2 bouts, going 1-1, Torres moved on and found a new home at Brave CF.
Mokaev also shone brightly on the IMMAF stage, taking home gold from the Junior World Championships in both 2018 and 2019, and also the 2019 Junior European Open title. Mokaev capped off his amateur tenure by adding senior gold to his collection at the 2020 Oceania Open, the last IMMAF Event before Covid-19 struck. The fanbase and hype surrounding Mokaev when he was an amateur had never been seen before on the MMA stage, with experts making comparisons between the British prospect and UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Upon the announcement of ‘The Punisher’ turning pro, he was inundated with offers from many major promotions, opting to sign with Brave. Within four months, Mokaev competed four times and got his professional career off to a flying start, securing 4 victories.
With both athletes signed to Brave, Torres at the very top of the Flyweight division and Mokaev looking to rise through the 125lbs rankings quickly, there is the possibility of the two meeting in the not too distant future.
Torres and Mokaev are soon to be involved in monumental bouts on Brave CF 49 when they face Sean Santella and fellow IMMAF champion, Abdul Hussein, respectively.
Murtaza Talha vs. Anton Turkalj
Once again, here are two athletes who have previously met but have developed so much since the first the first outing that the second is very much needed!
Murtaza Talha Ali and Anton Turkalj first met in the fighting area in 2018, where the two were competing in the final of the 2018 European Open. The impressive Turkalj was on a hot win streak en route to meeting the undefeated world champion. After 3 hard fought rounds, Murtaza had his hand raised in a unanimous decision victory.
Murtaza remained the conqueror of the IMMAF 205lb ranks. In addition to winning the 2018 European Open, he took home the iMMAF world title twice, in 2017 and 2019, and most recently claimed gold at the 2020 Oceania Open. He joined the professional ranks in November of 2020, signing with Brave CF. Since signing, the Bahraini Light Heavyweight has competed twice, with overwhelming victories over Vadim Litvin & Dmitriy Krivulets.
Following the loss to Murtaza, Turkaj turned pro and has transitioned perfectly, amassing a solid 6 fight win streak. Since turning pro, the Swedish standout has stayed as active as he possibly can, most notably making the walk 4 times in 2019 and all six of his victories have come within the distance. Turkaj is back in action on Brave CF 50, where he faces Vadim Litvin, Murtaza’s debut opponent.
With the two on such similar career trajectories under the same promotional banner, there is a chance that we may see Talha Ali vs Turkalj II in 2020.
Irman Smajic vs Ryan Spillane
Heavyweights Smajic and Spillane first squared up back in 2016 at the European Open Championships, in the first round of the tournament.
‘The People’s Champ’ Smajic was too much for a young Spillane, finishing the bout after only 16 seconds of the first round with an early barrage of strikes. Smajic made it to the finals, where he suffered a defeat to Daniel Galabarov, who had also ended the 2015 campaign’s of both Spillane and Smajic, to win the previous year’s Euro title.
Smajic went on to become the most decorated athlete in IMMAF history, twice winning the IMMAF World Championships in 2016 and 2017 and earned a second European Open silver medal in 2016 before winning the 2017 Euros at super-heavyweight, followed by taking gold at the 2017 Asia Open. Having turned professional, Smajic currently holds a perfect 3-0 record, but managing only one outing a year since 2018. With no bouts officially announced, Smajic could well be looking for his first bout of 2021.
After defeat to Smajic, Spillane fell to 2-5 and found himself on a three fight skid. The rematch almost happened 4 months later, when both competed in the 2017 IMMAF World Championships. Had Spillane bettered Lev Vins, he would have faced his Swedish rival in the final but it wasn’t to be.
After a tough few years at the elite amateur level, the young Irishman entered 2018 with a 3-8 amateur record and with a point to prove, a record to straighten, and medals to claim.
He did just that at the 2018 European Open with a coming of age performance, fighting his way to the tournament final in Bucharest to win the gold. His semi-final performance over Matias Anttila resulted in an Omoplata submission that received nomination for the IMMAF Performance of the Year Award.
At the historic 2018 IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships, Spillane made it to the final with further career best performances, only for his final opponent, Alexandre Chaddad, to withdraw for medical reasons after a tough semi-final, and so Spillane collected the gold. Now a proven achiever, Spillane earned his final gold medal at the 2020 IMMAF Oceania Open and finished his amateur career on a high.
Spillane’s exciting style on the amateur scene caught the eye of Bellator, who have signed the young Irishman before he has even set foot in a professional fighting area. A long awaited second meet with Smajic has been on both men’s wishlist for the past few years.
Igor Glazkov vs Andreas Gustafsson
As an unexpected entry to the list, how about a catchweight bout between Igor Glazkov and Andreas Gustafsson to wet the appetite of many fans?
Igor Glazkov claimed Light Heavyweight gold at both the 2018 Junior IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships and the Senior 2019 European Open, and naturally weighs in a few pounds under the 205 limit. As a former wrestling champion of Siberia, he showed his grappling prowess and thunderous hands throughout his IMMAF competitions. Glazkov has transitioned to the professional ranks with ease and secured three impressive victories since making the move in 2019.
After establishing an impressive 5-0-0 amateur record on the swedish domestic scene, Gustafsson made his only IMMAF appearance at the 2018 Unified World Championships. After three utterly dominating decision victories and a slick first round arm bar, Gustafsson found himself in an IMMAF Middleweight final at the first time of asking. He faced Russia’s Dzhamal Medzhidov but came up short, losing out on a unanimous decision. Gustafsson turned pro in 2019 and has competed for several major promotions including Cage Warriors, Brave and most recently, KSW, where he lost only via a split-decision to go 6-1 as a pro.
With both men showing the depth of their skill-sets at professional level, having victories coming by way of strikes, submissions and decisions, who knows how a bout between this exciting duo would play out!