By Caoilte de Barra
This second day of the 2021 European Senior and Junior Open Championship was action-packed after the mere taster of fights offered yesterday. A large majority of the bouts today featured at least one Russian fighter, which was no surprise considering the number of entries from the home nation.
But one other nation really caught the eye of many today and that was Spain. The Spanish team has historically proven to be quite strong at IMMAF competition, World Bronze Medalist Enriques Hecher Sosa being the first name that springs to mind. Sosa himself has now turned pro and is currently undefeated at 2-0.
His accomplishments made him one of the pioneers for the national team competing at a high level. The Spanish team has grown since then and the quality continues to improve. Today is a perfect example of that having performed valiantly throughout the day with two spectacular performances standing out from the crowd of fights.
First up was the junior competitor, Miguel Navarro De Brito, who completely dominated his highly touted Russian opponent, Nurmagomed Pashaev. After an exciting start of exchanging submission attempts, round two onwards was flawless for the Spaniard who outstruck and out grappled the Russian to earn a Unanimous Decision Victory.
The next victory came in the form of a performance of the year contender. Jose Borja Perez Rojas got one over on Portugal for Spain by securing a fantastic D’arce choke. Speaking with IMMAF.org post-event, Spain’s head coach Israel Adrados was highly complimentary of both fighters, touting them to secure medals for Spain.
“The two best fights were Miguel Navarro who put on a great performance against a very good Russian fighter. Miguel is a very strong technical fighter who can win these Championships. He had the best performance for Spain today.”
“Then Broja put on a very good fight too, he finished a Portuguese fighter in the first round.”
“I think Miguel Navarro and Jose Borja [will take home medals], with these fighters we have great expectations. I believe they will go in tomorrow and secure a medal position.”
While it wasn’t all plain sailing for Spain today, as they suffered four losses on the day, those were by no means bad losses. Each fighter put on a solid performance and was unlucky in each of their bouts.
Cristina Gallego Delgado in particular was very unlucky not to get the nod in her bout with Finland’s Janika Antinmaa where she lost via Split Decision. Adrados expressed his displeasure with the decision, believing his fighter won that fight.
“I didn’t like the decision of the judges for the Cristina Gallego Delgado fight, that was not a good decision from the judges in my opinion.”
Gonzalo Cortes Benitez, Manuel Del Valle Bouzid, Arturo Aedillo and Adrian Galvez De Egea were the other fighters that failed to secure wins. They each faced Russian opposition and all showed their ability to compete with their opposition. This is something that could be connected to their close connections with wrestling as an organisation as opposed to primarily MMA roots, which makes their fighters comfortable against strong grapplers.
Behind the scenes, there were some obstacles this team had to face to even make it to the championships. Factors such as a smaller squad and the lack of financial backing for fighters meant a lot went into getting to Russia. Although not all of the results may not have gone completely in their favour, the team certainly looked of a high calibre and proved to be one of the toughest nations at the competition.
“Spain does not have a whole team at the moment, we don’t have our entire team here because our federation is not an independent federation of MMA, it is part of Wrestling and they don’t have a lot of money to help us bring the whole team here. Most fighters in Spain pay their own costs of the Championships.”
“We have a lot more fighters that could come here and do well but could not come because of the financial situation. But we have a good level now to stay very high in the [IMMAF] rankings and we will be much better in the World Championships in November. We’re going to make it possible so that we bring two people at each weight to that event”
Lastly, the team’s psychologist and head coach’s wife was unable to travel with the team due to an illness so a vital member of the Spanish team was absent. Adrados highlighted and gave big plaudits to the work she does and the importance of her work with the team.
“Our Sports Psychologist, my wife, could not come with us to this championship, something that was very important to us because she does great work with the fighters. She was ill and could not travel with us and this was sad, both for us and our fighters as she adds a lot of value to the team.”
It has been a tough ride for Spain to get this far but they have shown their resilience and are still in with a big chance of securing medals at the 2021 European Junior and Senior Open Championships. It is no doubt they will provide more high-level entertainment for the remainder of the tournament before returning later this year.
You can follow the livestream action in Kazan at IMMAF.TV