By James Eakin
UFC 267 boasts a plethora of talent plucked straight from the IMMAF ranks. From top to bottom, the main card and prelims are littered with former National Champions and contenders alike from the nations of Russia and Brazil.
Starring in the highly anticipated co-main event, is Russian Muay Thai phenom and former Siberian Federal District Champion, Petr Yan. Since switching to a professional career in 2014, Yan has been on a tear in both the former Absolute Championship Berkut promotion and the UFC. Amassing an impressive record of 15-2, Yan looks to regain a shot at the undisputed Bantamweight title that he lost in controversial fashion to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259. Facing across the octagon on Saturday night is one of the toughest puzzles to solve in the whole division: Cory Sandhagen. The American presents a unique challenge for the former champion as the two battle it out for the Interim Bantamweight strap.
Further down the card we find Magomed Ankalaev, a burgeoning light-heavyweight prospect and former Russian National Championship gold medallist in 2015. He aims to rise further up the ranks when he takes on the always game Volkan Oezdemir. With a professional record of 15-1, Ankalaev is quickly cementing his place amongst the best in the division. Highlight reel finishes of Dalcha Lungiambula and Ion Cutelaba, as well as dominant displays over the likes of Nikita Krylov have made Ankalaev the critics’ choice as a potential future UFC Light-Heavyweight champion. His professional success combined with his impressive amateur record of 25-1 demonstrate the benefit of the amateur promotions associated with the IMMAF.
Closing out the prelims of UFC 267, is Brazilian Amanda Ribas; currently ranked at #10 in the Women’s Strawweight division and an IMMAF Flyweight gold medallist in 2014. She takes on fellow Brazilian, Virna Jandiroba. Ribas is looking to bounce back from her defeat to Marina Rodriguez at UFC 257 and continue moving her way up the Strawweight rankings. Undefeated as an amateur, Ribas now holds impressive victories over recognisable names like Mackenzie Dern and Paige VanZant.
A Black Belt in both Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and Judo, Ribas’ front foot style and infectious personality have made her a fan favourite, and UFC 267 grants her an opportunity to return to winning ways against a tricky opponent in Jandiroba. Will we see the two BJJ aces battle it out on the mat, or will their grappling proficiency force a stand-up contest? We will have to wait and see.
Also competing at UFC 267 are Damir Ismagulov, former Russian Supercup Champion, and Shamil Gamzatov, Russian National Championships Bronze Medallist in 2017. It is fantastic all these athletes with superb amateur credentials flourishing in their professional careers after their association with the IMMAF, and highlights the effectiveness of proper amateur promotion and regulation in the early stages of their careers!