By Caoilte de Barra
Since the dawn of IMMAF, the Irish contingent that attends each competition has always been strong. The talent coming from the Emerald Isle is improving year on year. The most recent example of this is from the Inaugural IMMAF World Cup – Prague where the All-Ireland squad collected a stunning haul of 12 medals.
The conveyor belt of talent, combined with the development of their athletes has seen many of them succeed when they opt to hone their craft in the pro game.
This weekend two World Championship medalists will compete professionally. 2016 World Silver Medalist Nathan Kelly will make the short trip to Templepatrick to compete for his first pro belt against Shem Rock at Clan Wars 42 on Saturday. The following day, 2018 European and World Champion Ryan Splliane will throw down in Amsterdam for the second time this year at Levels Fight League 3.
In 2016, Kelly went on a spectacular run of wins in his sole IMMAF competition. The BJJ Black Belt scored a number of Triangle Chokes in his run-up to the final. Opening his IMMAF account with a slick mounted triangle over South Africa’s Reece Van Der Merwe only to follow it up with an arm-triangle choke in his semi-final bout.
Kelly was lighting up Las Vegas with his performances only for Shoaib Yousaf (UK) to put a stop to the party by outpointing him in the final.
Two consecutive losses meant Kelly had a turbulent beginning to life as a pro in 2017. His refusal to be discouraged by the losses soon saw him bounce back with two finishes. His most recent being a 9 second KO over Rogger Lopez. The performance stood out so much that he was granted his first title shot.
Fellow Irishman, Spillane has a long history in IMMAF dating back to 2015 where he picked up his first piece of silverware after an Achilles Hold submission booked the then young heavyweight a spot in the final.
Gold wasn’t to be on that day but his yearly return to IMMAF and constant improvements lead to him taking over the Heavyweight division in 2018. Improvements in striking in conjunction with a variety of submission finishes that includes an omoplata, toe hold and ankle lock, made him the most dangerous Heavyweight on the amateur circuit.
He rounded off his amateur career by showing off his striking ability in his 32-second domination of Dane Alchin at the 2020 Oceania Open Championships. A transition to pro came over a year later, however, it wasn’t the dream debut he would have hoped as a trip to Amsterdam against a very tough opponent at LFL resulted in defeat.
After accepting a short notice fight under the same promotional banner, “Hulk” is looking for redemption after his debut. He has made improvements in his game not to mention being a part of both Johnny Walker and Tom Aspinall’s most recent camps. A determined and hungry Spillane has been gunning for his opportunity to return to the cage and will get to do so this weekend against Salim El Ouassaidi at LFL 3.