By James Sweetnam
Miha Frlic is Slovenia’s sole representative for the 2021 IMMAF World Championships in Abu Dhabi.
The European nation may not top the medal table, but they are growing in reputation. At the World Cup in Prague, Czech Republic, Frlic impressed MMA purists with his bronze medal-winning run. He emerged from the tournament with huge respect despite his loss to Bahraini superstar and World Championship favourite Rasul Magomedov.
The Slovenian outfit has gradually improved over the last few years, and have an ambitious programme. Their official spokesperson, Darren Russell, is excited for a second potential collision between Frlic and Magomedov in addition to the splash he expects the nation to make in the coming years.
He said: “We believe we can impact the medal table, especially long term, with the plan to develop and grow a team that can compete in all weight classes. Miha is our first rising star and he will look to impress in Abu Dhabi, potentially rematching Rasul.”
It seems that Slovenia is making all the right moves to become genuine players at the highest level of MMA. They have developed several professional fighters, including Jakob Nedoh, Lemmy Krusic and Uros Jurisic. But to continue their long-term growth, they’re now developing athletes at the grassroots level.
The appetite for combat sports is growing in Slovenia. In January 2020, Brave FC sold out a capacity crowd in their capital, Ljubljana. The fans roared in excitement as the landmark event provided a night of exciting knockouts and performances. But for that momentum to continue, their team must make improvements.
They’re currently struggling because the concept of ‘amateur MMA’ is a relatively new phenomenon in their region. Most of their athletes turn professional with minimal experience. But according to Russell, that’s all changing for the better.
He added: “We’ve had challenges putting the team together as amateur competition in sport is a relatively new thing in the region. So SMMAA strives to continue to develop these pathways as well as supporting local gyms.”
“Slovenian MMA will come a long way in 2022 and beyond – watch this space.”