By Jorden Curran
It was a memorable debut for Israel at the 2021 IMMAF Youth MMA World Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria, concluding back in August . For the newly established Israeli MMA Federation (ISR-MMA), the mission was simple; to demonstrate that youth MMA in Israel is worth recognition and support from the nation’s ministry of sport.
ISR-MMA president Ido Pariente was ambitious in hoping to see the Israeli team return home with at least a single medal, as while the objective may have been simple, the newcomer team would have to venture through treacherously deep waters. 7 young Israeli hopefuls alongside their 4 coaches waded into a sea of 22 other nations including the likes of the USA, Russia, Ukraine, Ireland and host nation Bulgaria, all with much larger teams and proven track records of youth MMA development.
For Israel, the outcome was joyous with not just one medal, but two, as Hod Maman and Yoav Kilstein both stepped on to the podium to claim bronze medals while their fellow teammates, despite not making it to the podium, produced steadfast efforts on the world stage.
Upon advancing to the quarterfinals of the male Youth A welterweight tournament, 18-year-old Hod Maman bagged his bronze medal by sensationally defeating Ivan Lytvyn of Ukraine, the nation who would go on to lead the Youth Championships medal table. Maman’s exit from the tournament came in the semi-finals against Ireland’s Max Lally.
15-year-old Yoav Kilstein navigated the depths of the male Youth B 159lb (72kg) division, earning his bronze medal with a 3-1 run of results to enter the semi-finals, impressively as the no.2 seed. The underdog challenger bested rivals from Estonia, Kazakhstan and the USA, who were the no.1 ranked team heading into the competition after their dominance of the 2019 Youth World Championships in Rome.
The ISR-MMA president believes that the success of Israel’s steadfast young talent is proof of their potential under the IMMAF banner, upon the world’s premier amateur MMA platform; “The medals earned in the youth world championship are not only a symbol of the federation’s hard work, but proof that Israel has world class talent even before the federation was created,” Pariente commented. “We are here to nurture this hope and promising national ability. Now our job is to show what the federation can do about the talent that exists, with the help of our government.”