By Jorden Curran
UFC star Ilir Latifi has committed to supporting the development of youth and amateur MMA talent in Kosovo, in addition to continued support within his native home of Albania, according to Besart Berisha, president of the Kosovo MMA Federation.
37-year-old Latifi is a heavyweight/light-heavyweight UFC contender with an extensive career in the world’s leading professional MMA organisation, fighting out of his adoptive home of Sweden where MMA is prominently governed and supported by the government backed Swedish MMA Federation. Latifi began supporting the Albanian Free Fighting Federation in 2017, appearing to corner the national amateur team at the IMMAF World Championships in Bahrain, and will now extend his support to the neighbouring region of Kosovo.
“I was talking to the Albania Federation, who usually help us a lot, as do the Austria and Germany federations,” Berisha (pictured below) explains. “As I talked to Arjan Rizaj, president of the Albania Federation, I asked him if he had the contact for Ilir. I texted Latifi and we talked about when we met in Bahrain. I explained to him how it is hard in Kosovo, just like Albania, because of the government not giving us the support, it’s hard-to-get sponsors.
From 2017 to 2018 Berisha represented Austria as a heavyweight on the IMMAF platform. He added; “Latifi will help in building MMA in Kosovo and Albania for an international presence and to support young talents. He is sponsoring us for the IMMAF [World Cup Series] in Prague, in September, and also wants to help us to evolve technical training and performance development.
“My message to the world and any other IMMAF member nations who lack support, is to reach out to people like Ilir, the personalities of our sport, to help them understand the work we are doing, which helps them to help us.”
The Kosovo MMA Federation began 2021 with an announcement that the organisation and MMA as a sport had been welcomed as a member of the Kosovo Olympic Committee. The anticipated goal of a government license and recognition under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sport had since faced delays but the MMA Federation has now been informed by a government official that new governing licenses for all sports are expected to be completed in August, following changes in government and law.
“We’re told it should happen by the end of August”, Berisha added, “for completion of the federation’s license. We have done much in the meantime, we had a big event, certification of officials, coaching seminars, collaborating with other organisations and joined the Albania state championships where a lot of Kosovo’s fighters won. Albania’s president commented that Kosovo’s youth talent looks very stable, and youth are the future of our sport”.
The IMMAF competition circuit is the world’s premier platform for amateur MMA and kicks off once again, beginning this month with the IMMAF Youth World Championships, taking place from 30 July to 1 August in Sofia, Bulgaria.