By James Sweetnam
The Swedish team picked up an impressive 3 gold medals at the 2021 IMMAF World Cup, as they continue to produce talented prospects for the future.
Alexander Gustafsson and Ilir Latifi are just two of the athletes that have done their country proud by competing at the highest level of MMA. However, it looks like they won’t be the last big names to come out of Sweden, as the IMMAF World Cup showcased the next generation of Scandi talent.
With three gold medals, Sweden rocketed to the top of the IMMAF medal table for the first time since 2018, and it was the women who particularly impressed. Prague, in the Czech Republic, played host to a fantastic clash between Swedish team-mates, Josephine Modig and Nina Back.
At just 23 years old, Back is the most decorated member of the Swedish team and was chasing an elusive gold medal, after winning 4 silvers at previous events. The future star had her mother and number one fan cheering her on from the crowd throughout the duration of the tournament. But, sadly for Back, it wasn’t enough as she lost via unanimous decision to one of IMMAF’s quickest rising prospects in Modig.
Despite being an underdog in terms of experience, the Swede, who had impressively emerged the victor via first round KO against Ireland’s Caitlyn Hadfield in the previous round, completed her incredible debut on the IMMAF platform, to win the strawweight gold medal. At the end of the fight, both women displayed their emotion as Modig collapsed to the floor in celebration, before she shared an emotional embrace with her countryman. Modig showed a well-rounded game and is expected to have even more success in the future. Although coming agonisingly close to gold once again, Back remained in good spirits and is preparing to become one of the many IMMAF alumni to chase the heights of the pro game. The Swede, who is now expected to make a huge impact on the world of MMA, took to her Instagram to confirm the news.
The 5x silver medalist said: “5x IMMAF-WMMAA silver medalist, over and out, pro rankings next.”
It wasn’t just the strawweight division that highlighted the growth of Swedish MMA, as Yrsa Sandin claimed gold at lightweight. If defeating Eva Melo in a hard fought split decision wasn’t enough, the Stockholm based fighter has shown resilience in abundance over the past two years. She has been plagued with injuries that she worried may have prevented her from ever stepping foot in the cage again.
The gold medalist said: “It’s been 2 years out of the cage. 2 years with injuries that I never thought would heal. The road to the IMMAF World Cup was definitely not an easy one, but nothing worth doing ever is. This was not a flawless or even pretty fight, but I did manage to pull out a win and once again prove to myself that whatever life throws at me, I’ll always bounce back.
After her crowning moment in Prague, Sandin is going to take a rest, before she prepares for the next step in her amateur career.
Sandin added: “Now I’m going to let my face heal and then get back to the drawing board.”
Potentially the most sensational gold medal victory for Sweden at the World Cup, was that of Millie Eriksson. The flyweight continued Sweden’s run of dominance in that division with a submission victory over Germany’s Renana Bruckstein via standing guillotine. Despite the German’s success at the European Open, in which she took the silver medal, it was Eriksson who emerged victorious in a division which is stacked with talent. After stepping up from the junior ranks, Eriksson has proved that she is amongst the best amateur mixed martial artists on the planet.
The gold medalist was absolutely thrilled to have won the World Cup, but she is very confident that this is just the beginning.
Eriksson said: “I finally got to go and participate in the World Cup in Prague. Last year as a junior and now I’ve stepped up to the senior class and taken gold, just as it should be. This is where I belong, at the top of the prize pool. I’m made for this, remember that.”
The Swede was also deeply appreciative of everyone who has helped her along the road to becoming a World Cup champion.
She added: “Thank you to all the amazing people who have supported me, helped me and believed in me. Everyday of this camp, I have been inspired and motivated by you.”
Sweden has produced some fantastic talent over the years, but as the careers of the likes of Gustafsson come to an end, Swedish mixed martial arts fans can rejoice in the fact that if the IMMAF World Cup is anything to go by, the future is in very good hands.