By Jake Smith
Up next in our IMMAF World Championships ‘Teams To Watch’ series is the Austrian Mixed Martial Arts Federation, as they return to IMMAF competition.
The 2021 World Championships will be the first tournament in a long time for Austria, as they did not enter a team for the European Championships or the World Cup. The Federation is now relishing the opportunity to return to competitive mixed martial arts. Co-team coach and board member Gerhard Ettl explained Austria’s reasoning behind not entering teams into the previous tournaments. : “I and the team love the excitement of international competition. To compete at the highest level of amateur MMA you need to ensure that your athletes are fit and up to the challenge. Sometimes you need a season to recover, reach your full potential, and develop young new fighters. This is exactly what we have done and we are excited to be back in Abu Dhabi with a young new motivated team.”
Although fielding a relatively new team, Ettl expects the dedication his young athletes have shown to the sport so far will supersede any experience they drop to opponents and can even see medals returning from Abu Dhabi. He said:
“We are entering seven fighters in this year’s competition: three in the junior class, three in the senior class, and one fighter in the women’s division.
“What our team has not yet attained in experience, they more than make up for in motivation and commitment. Our goal is to win two medals, gain exposure, develop our skills in competition, and set the groundwork for future international competitions.”
Ettl believes that the previously described commitment shown by athletes throughout the federation played a vital role in the athletes maintaining their fitness throughout the last 12 months, many of them having to discipline themselves and to train from home due to the restrictions the nation faced. He explained how the team managed to adapt to keep working during the pandemic:
“In Austria, like the rest of the world, we had a lot of Covid-19 restrictions. We had two full lock downs, all the gyms in Austria were closed, and travel for sparring sessions was difficult. It was hard to develop team camaraderie and keep motivation high. Despite all the challenges, we still managed to get in weekly team sparring sessions in Graz. All our athletes also trained hard in their home cities with their local coaches. They also did a great job of staying in contact and motivating each other over social media.”
Austria’s selection process takes place at their national championships; of which they saw a tremendous turn out. Ettl said:
“Two months ago, we held the Austria National Championships where the athletes earned their spot on the national team. There were about fifty contenders at the championships and competition was fierce. All seven of our qualifying athletes performed well and have clearly earned the right to represent Austria in Abu Dhabi.”
The federation have clear goals set for on and off the podium in Abu Dhabi and moving forwards, commendable concentrating on developing a solid groundwork for their current and future athletes. IMMAF has been a proven platform for amateurs to flourish against the best competitors on the globe and Austria aims to become one of the next nations to shine on the IMMAF stage.
The 2021 IMMAF World Championships take place in Abu Dhabi between January 24-29th 2022.