By Joe Price
Bulgaria beckons for some of the finest young MMA talent that the world has to offer. The city of Sofia welcomes 24 different nations to come and unite as one MMA family once again at the EFE Marinela Hotel.
It has been some time since IMMAF have been able to provide a competitive platform for its athletes to showcase their abilities due to the pandemic, and the MMA organisation could not be more excited to return with our athletes aged 12-17 years of age.
However, the return of this event has not come without its challenges. The pandemic has continued to linger with its disruptiveness as COVID-related issues meant that Turkey, the initial hosts for the IMMAF Youth Championships, could not go ahead with the competition. After some conversations with the Bulgarian federation, everything quickly fell into place.
Densign White, IMMAF CEO, outlined how complicated things can be sometimes, but how the connections within the sport help overcome these issues.
“We were fortunate that we had options.”
“Obviously, we had to take the COVID situation into account, as well as other elements that were potentially problematic. Ultimately, the risk was the event not taking place due to a variety of factors, and was therefore in the best interest of all involved to change location.”
This is not the first time Bulgaria has staged an IMMAF event, as 2017 saw Sofia host the European Championships. Fortunately, IMMAF is proud of its foundations as a united body, and Densign paid tribute to the comradery between its members.
“Fortunately, we have a good relationship with Bulgaria, and could easily move the event. Having been here before, we were already familiar with the location and how everything ran. This gave us peace of mind that everything could go smoothly.”
The eagerness of the participants is clear to see by the number of athletes attending the event, regardless of the pandemic acting as a potential deterrent.
“We’re here now, it is great, and we have a bigger entry than we did at our 2019 Youth Championships in Italy. Without COVID, we could have perhaps doubled the entry numbers, with the likes of Great Britain unable to attend to due to restrictions.”
The strong bonds between IMMAF nations are not only present in its staging of events, but its commitment to helping athletes of all ages. Densign wants youth competition to be at the forefront of the federation’s future, whilst remaining a safe environment for the young mixed martial artists.
“The family feel is absolutely important; this event is going be the flagship for that. We have said that youth development is at the forefront, and our federations share that mentality.”
“The kids are excited to be travelling to a global event again, and you can see that from the number of athletes attending from different nations. It’s amazing how it has been embraced, and it will go from strength to strength.”
“These Youth Championships are a fantastic advert for the sport. If you look at the no headshot rule for example, we have a protective platform that allows young athletes to compete safely.”
It has been a whole 509 days since IMMAF’s last event back in Australia, where the Gold Coast held the Oceania Open Championships. So, lets remind you of what to expect from the World Youth Championships coming up!
Youth competition Rules
IMMAF Youth MMA rule sets disallow strikes head strikes for under 18s and are modified from the IMMAF Amateur MMA Rules with regards to the physiological development of the following three age categories, as advised by IMMAF’s expert medical, coaching and regulatory committees:
• IMMAF Youth A 16-17s (U18)
• IMMAF Youth B 14-15s (U16)
• IMMAF Youth C 12-13s (U14)
(For further specifics on competition rules, visit the IMMAF website here – https://immaf.org/events/rules-and-policies/#competitionrules)
What nations will be competing?
The Bulgarian capital city will see 24 nations from all corners of the globe bring an approximate number of around 369 athletes to the event. The competing nations are:
Albania, Armenia, Australia, Bahrain, Bulgaria (Hosts), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Lithuania, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Tajikistan, Turkey, Ukraine and USA.
What time will the competition start?
Competition will be scheduled to begin at 10am (local time) on:
• Friday, 30th July
• Saturday, 31st July
• Sunday, August 1st
How can I follow the event?
You can watch the event LIVE via IMMAF TV.
If you’re unable to watch the event, then follow IMMAF on our social media channels for tournaments news:
Although all competition will find one athlete have their hand raised at the final bell, this event will be about championing the togetherness that IMMAF encourages as an MMA body.
With all the trials and tribulations that have presented itself over the past 18 months, the IMMAF Youth MMA World Championships looks to be the start of our weening back to normality with more events to follow.
Sit tight, strap yourselves in, and enjoy an IMMAF event once again. It is sure to be a weekend of high-level MMA amongst some future champions, contested in the greatest of spirits!