By Ross Patterson
Resurrection MMA is a martial arts gym in an old, converted church in Nottinghamshire, England. The gym played host to the English Mixed Martial Arts Academy trials for the IMMAF World Championships which are taking place in January 2022.
The EMMAA trials attract the best amateur talent the UK has to offer. This year, the standard and turnout were both high, making the decision on who made the team a difficult one..
The day started with an introduction by Paul Kelly, EMMA’s Head Coach. Paul made clear to the athletes how the trials would be structured, and what was on the line. Andrew Fisher from TFT MMA was running the drills, which included striking and cage wrestling, Jiu-Jitsu and light-sparring. Also assessing the talent was Christian Smith, the owner of Resurrection MMA, as well as Mark Spencer, the EMMAA Youth Coach. Watching closely cage-side was Paul Reed, EMMAA’s Performance Director, and Marie Spencer.
As the athletes warmed up, it was clear the skill level was high. The striking was sharp and fluid, and the grappling technically proficient. Initially, the drills were non-competitive, but Fisher soon had the athletes sparring lightly. From time to time, a heavy shot would land. The coaches were quick to ask for “10%” taken off the power. The emphasis was on technique. Some participants had fights scheduled in the coming weeks, so couldn’t afford to pick up an injury.
British churches are not well-insulated, and on a cold December day, everyone’s breath was caught in the air. Hats, gloves and hoodies were left firmly on. Spectators’ fingers and toes soon turned stiff, but there was a warm heater in the toilet and pull-up bars to get the blood pumping. But steam was rising from the athletes, and after two hours of work, everyone was looking ready to call it a day.
Paul Kelly made a closing speech, thanked everyone for coming and commented on the high level of mixed martial arts on show. The group gathered for photographs, and headed home.
After the trials, Paul told me, “It was great. The level of talent was high enough that it wasn’t clear who would be on the team and who wouldn’t.”
Ryan McNally, who was picked for the team, said about the IMMAF event, “This is how it’s going to be, isn’t it? Same-day weigh-ins, rash guard, shin guards.”
The coaches then discussed who would be chosen to represent England at length. And the team selected is as follows:
England will field a strong team for the IMMAF World Championships. The young MMA athletes who travelled from across the UK to the trials certainly impressed all of those in attendance.
Fundraising has already started to finance the trip to Abu Dhabi on January 24, 2022 and it looks set to be a fantastic experience for all involved.