By James Sweetnam
Khabib Nurmagomedov and Georges St Pierre were celebrity spectators, as the English Mixed Martial Arts Association searched for the England representatives for the 2022 IMMAF Youth World Championships.
The Arnold Sports Festival, created by Austrian superstar Arnold Schwarzenegger in 1989, took place for the first time in the UK at the National Exhibition Centre in Birmingham. Over the weekend it played host to the EMMAA invitational and youth try-outs in which the best prospects in the country competed for their chance to represent England.
The multi-sport festival is the biggest of its kind on the planet and prides itself in displaying a high level of competition in all of the sports that it showcases. These range from arm wrestling to powerlifting and the quality of athletes on display at the invitational impressed Paul Reed, the Board Director and Head of Performance at the EMMAA.
Reed said: “The standard of the competitors at this weekend’s EMMAA invitational and youth qualifiers at the prestigious Arnold Classic was extremely high and the bar has clearly been raised.”
He also felt that the honourable nature of everybody at the event made for a great occasion.
Reed added: “Everyone involved, from athletes, coaches, parents and fans, showed great sportsmanship and created a fantastic environment allowing the young athletes to really showcase their skills.”
The President of EMMAA, Marc Goddard, was delighted that two legends of the sport were present at the invitational. He is also extremely confident that his IMMAF recognised governing body is doing massive things to change the landscape of mixed martial arts at the amateur level.
The IMMAF Director of Regulatory Affairs and UFC referee said: “Huge thank you to the legends Khabib and GSP for stopping by at EMMMA’s invitational. Don’t sleep on what we are doing for the sport of MMA.”
IMMAF President, Kerrith Brown, was also at the event to show his support, as well as to watch the fighters competing to be part of England’s team for the 2022 Youth World Championships. The former Olympian had huge praise for Goddard and appreciated that St Pierre attended.
Brown said: “I’d like to congratulate Marc Goddard and the English Mixed Martial Arts Association for their incredible efforts to put on their invitational event at Arnold Sports UK and thank you for visiting too GSP.”
This year’s IMMAF Youth World Championships saw 331 of the best young fighters in the world competing and developing their skills in Sofia, Bulgaria. The 2022 tournament is set to be an even bigger event and those who qualified to represent England will be motivated to compete at a very high level. Reed is extremely confident that the England team will be one to be reckoned with at the tournament.
He emphasised: “Mark Spencer, the Youth Head Coach of England and his coaching team are building a special squad to take over to the IMMAF Youth Championships and the work continues across all the age groups and categories. All of the EMMAA coaching team, headed up by Paul Kelly, will be working hard to develop relationships with English MMA coaches as we look forward to building on this momentum for 2022.”