By Caoilte de Barra
The 2021 IMMAF World Cup has seen Iceland return to IMMAF competition for the first time in over two years. Historically, Iceland has brought a small number of competitors but always of a very high standard.
Three Icelandic competitors were originally entered for the inaugural World Cup but, due to injury only two could participate, Aron Franz at jr. featherweight and Mikael Aclipen at jr. bantamweight. Both men are coached by Gunnar Nelson, Luka Jelcic and Francis Acilpen.
Speaking with IMMAF.org, UFC Welterweight Gunnar Nelson explained how difficult it has been for athletes to get fights and having this competition taking place made sense for them to enter a team.
“Yeah this is a huge event for us. It’s been a tough couple of years to get fights, for all of us pros but also these guys that are coming up. We have a pretty young competition group at the moment. So this was a big one for us, being able to come here with the lads. We had three guys enter but one got injured so there were two. One lost his fight yesterday, Mickael won and then he won again today so it’s a really good experience and we’re really happy about how he’s doing.”
Considering the geographic location of Iceland, it is difficult to get fights at all levels and is quite costly to start an MMA career. However, the Mjolnir MMA fighter and coach underlined that this offers the perfect scenario for amateurs to gain fight experience.
“With these amateur fighters you have to either pay everything for them or they have to pay themselves. These hese guys are young so it’s not an easy thing to start an MMA career. There’s not a lot of money and it’s hard to get sponsors because you’re not known, especially for us based out here in the Atlantic ocean. After all, we have to fly and travel. It’s a bit of a hassle so coming out here for IMMAF, it’s the best thing that can happen to these guys. You come in and have the chance to have four fights in a few days so it’s the best-case scenario for us.”
“Watching them grow from the last few months, these young boys pick things up so quickly they’re like the perfect sponge. Everything you show them they’re able to implement right away, they’re the best guys to teach.”
One half of the Iceland team was unsuccessful in his bout yesterday but looked much more seasoned than someone who has not been training very long.
“Aron who lost yesterday, only started recently. I don’t know if there’s a fighter who’s been training for a shorter amount of time than Aron but he has been in every single day, all day since he’s started. That’s why he’s here now because he’s shown how much he wants it and has improved so much lately. He’s training for a short amount of time so he’s still a beginner but as we talked about earlier it’s hard to get fights and this only made sense and I believe he’s much better already than he was able to show yesterday. He got a little bit unlucky but that’s part of the game but we’ll learn from that and get back to the drawing board.”
Mickael Alcin has been very impressive in the competition progressing to tomorrow’s semi-final with a win earlier today. Both Gunnar Nelson and his father Halli Nelson have both watched him train in MMA for the best part of 10 years and hold him in very high regard. He features heavily in a recent video by Mjolnir MMA where they follow three athletes that have been with them for years.
“It’s really been a privilege to watch Mikael from a young age, I’ve been coaching him more lately than when he was young. He was in the kid’s group with our coaches there and he’s slowly made his way up to the competition team and now lately I’ve been coaching them quite a bit.” ‘Gunni’ explained and his father, Halli, shares similar thoughts on how he has progressed.
“I have followed Mikael Aclipen since he first stepped into Mjölnir as just a little kid and I have never met a kid as determined at a young age to go all the way in this sport. He is in the gym every day, all day if he can and would probably move his legal domicile there if he could. Nobody trains harder or is more conscientious in his training.” Halli added.