By Michael Clifton
Poland’s Rising Star, Magdalena Czaban, exploded onto the international stage in 2019 when she captured the atomweight title at the IMMAF European Open Championships in Italy. In doing so, she ended Poland’s gold medal drought by becoming the first senior Polish fighter since 2015 to claim the gold.
Since that day in Rome, Czaban, who currently holds four IMMAF medals, has continued to impress and heads into this month’s IMMAF World Championships in Abu Dhabi as one of the favorites to claim the atomweight crown.
The 22-year-old is flying high after successfully defending her European Open title in August in Russia, where she overcame Finland’s Jenna Horto in the final. Czaban booked her ticket to the final with an explosive first-round TKO victory over Kazakhstan’s Inas Ashirbek, which showcased her development as a striker.
What made winning her second European title more satisfying than her first was that in the leadup to the tournament, Czaban injured an ankle and had been unable to train as normal before she flew out with the Polish team to Russia.
Going into her matchups, Czaban knew she could not afford a single wrong movement in case she aggravated her injury. It added an extra layer of pressure to her bouts, but Czaban feels she left the European Open a better fighter because of the experience.
“For the last four weeks before the Euros, I rested a lot and didn’t train normally, ” Czaban says.
“I had to be calmer in those fights and be careful because of that ankle. I could not make any mistakes.”
Along with her second senior title, Czaban left Russia with a newfound self-belief in her technical abilities, as well as a greater appreciation for the mental side of the sport.
” I have gone up a level, as opposed to [where I was] two years ago. There was a time when I didn’t see any difference, but the [European} Championship showed there’s a big difference between Magda two years ago and Magda now, ” she says.
“My grappling has gotten better; my striking gets better, and while it is hard to do that during a fight, my mentality has changed a lot… I think it changed a lot in that I understand my game and what I have to do in the fight to win.”
The upcoming world championships look set to test Czaban like never before. The atomweight division is loaded with talent, and she is aware that she will need to be at her best if she wants to add a world title to her trophy cabinet.
” It will be a big challenge for me because there are two girls from Kazakhstan, two girls from Ireland, and one from Sweden [reigning world champion Bezhan Mahmudi], who is an excellent grappler,” she says.
“I think our division will be really good, for sure.”
Czaban, like all her fellow fighters training for the IMMAF World Championships, was forced to put aside some of her festive season celebrations to prepare for the upcoming tournament. Fortunately, Czaban’s partner Maciej Rębacz is also on the Polish IMMAF team and understands the sacrifices athletes make to pursue their dreams.
“It’s a really good situation for me because he is also cutting weight and has also gone through those hard sparring sessions, ” she says.
“So I think it is a great situation for him and me,” Czaban explains.
The clock has only just ticked over to 2022, but Czaban’s schedule is already looking packed; however, as someone who thrives on keeping herself busy, she would not want it any other way.
“Firstly, I just want to go to the World Championships, and right now, it’s my biggest aim. After that, we will think, but for sure [ I want to go to the IMMAF Euros], and maybe between the World Championship and Euro Championship, I will go for a BJJ World Championship.”
Czaban makes no secret of her aspiration to turn professional, but she also knows time is on her side. At the moment, she feels the best place to continue her MMA education is under the IMMAF banner.
“It’s a good place to meet new friends, and I love the community. I can go there, feel good and develop myself with the best amateur fighters in the world,” she says.
“The IMMAF amateur championship is the best way to gain experience for the professional scene. They are massive events, and if I compete for a professional organization someday, I don’t think I will be as stressed. So it’s a good feeling to have that experience at the highest level.”