By Jake Smith
In the first of IMMAF’s series of articles taking a closer look at some of the nations competing at the 2021 IMMAF World Championships in Abu Dhabi, we focus on a Federation that has experienced the most growth over the last 12 months, Tajikistan.
From a relatively new IMMAF member to a top 10 Federation at both IMMAF Senior and Junior level, the Tajikistan Mixed Martial Arts Federation has experienced a meteoric rise since joining the IMMAF family.
Reflecting on a very successful 2021, Tajikistan’s International Relations Manager, Farrukh Halimov, conveyed his delight with the success of the team. He said:
“It was so exciting and proud to watch our national team going forward with ups and downs. 2021 was a very successful year for the Tajikistan Mixed Martial Arts Federation because as a new IMMAF member federation we could participate in all four international championships, three IMMAF and one Central Asian MMA Confederation (CAMMAC) Championship, and achieve strong results in each of them.
“At the IMMAF Youth World Championship in Sofia, with 5 athletes TAJMMAF won 1 Gold and 3 Bronze medals. At the IMMAF European & Junior European Open Championship in Kazan, we entered 12 athletes and earned 2 Gold and 4 Bronze medals. At the IMMAF Senior & Junior World Cup in Prague, Czech Republic, out of 9 athletes TAJMMAF won 3 Gold, 1 Silver and 4 Bronze medals while at the first Central Asian Championship in Nukus, Uzbekistan the TAJMMAF second team managed 4 silver and 6 bronze medals.”
Most nations found that the COVID Pandemic and the restrictions that accompanied it, posed serious challenges to training. However, TAJMMAF worked alongside the Sports Committee and were able to continue their work, Halimov explained:
“In 2020 MMA was still not recognized as a sport in Tajikistan but TAJMMAF obtained the Accreditation of Sports Committee of Tajikistan, and performed accordingly. Notwithstanding the pandemic TAJMMAF had managed to continue training, and held local championships without spectators in line with IMMAF recommendations.”
But the lack of official recognition did not last for long. In the last 12 months TAJMMAF has made the monumental step of gaining official recognition of Mixed Martial Arts as a sport in Tajikistan.
“Following the initiative of TAJMMAF President Davron Juraev, the Committee of Youth Affairs and Sports under the Government of the Republic of Tajikistan was approached and recognized MMA as a type of sport on April 1, 2021!
“It is important to underline that IMMAF President Kerrith Brown made a great contribution to the official recognition of MMA in our country during his visit to Tajikistan in December 2020. He met at that time with the Sports Committee Vice-Chairman, the General Director of our Olympic Committee and was interviewed on National Sports Television.”
The aforementioned participation at IMMAF tournaments has produced some major prospects, with Otabek Rajabov & Behruz Khurshedzoda holding the junior pound-for-pound rankings of #1 & #2, respectively.
While the federation’s work speaks for itself inside the competition arena, TAJMMAF have been relentless in their pursuit to engage in other meaningful work as well, as Halimov explained:
“ TAJMMAF carried out a number of specific activities in 2021 to regulate and enhance the culture of mixed martial arts. We want to create favorable conditions for young athletes by providing MMA equipment in several clubs and thus to improve education, physical culture and the formation of a healthy lifestyle and popularization of MMA as a safe and healthy sport in the Republic of Tajikistan.
“Besides this, TAJMMAF also fulfills charitable activities, supporting orphans and poor people, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.”
All in all, it has been an extremely productive and rewarding 12 months for TAJMMAF. Gaining recognition by the government is a colossal achievement to accompany their tremendous tournament success. If they can deliver a solid World Championship performance, the up and coming Federation could find themself in the world top 5 by February 2022.