By Caoilte de Barra
Upon entering the World Championships, many federations with larger teams have eyes set on finishing high on the table and collecting numerous medals. Usually, these federations are ahead of their peers in their development after building up their experience over the years. The likes of the RMMAU, Kazakhstan and Bahrain are examples of this and are teams that usually have a large contingent at every event.
For other federations, the experience may be very different. The focus may not be on finishing top of the medal table but on allowing their fighters to compete at the highest level. It is a good way of gauging what level you are at and can help understand areas that require improvement. The experience itself is priceless and aids the development of the sport when a federation returns home.
The Iraqi federation would fall into this category. They are still growing as a federation and have hit new heights following their debut appearance at the IMMAF World Championships. A historic moment in their history. Regionally they have been active, holding 14 national championships overall. However, this year was the first where they were able to send a team to the World Championships. News that even caught the attention of television in Iraq before the tournament.
While in Abu Dhabi, the Iraq team took the opportunity to train with other federations. Notably training with members of the Irish team on multiple occasions across the week. Although the language barrier did exist, it did not stop a friendship between the groups, with members of both squads regularly doing some rounds together.
Fight results may not have gone their way, but it was a massive occasion for the federation. Making it to the World Championships itself and competing at that level can be seen as an achievement in itself.
Iraqi MMA president Raad Jameel Abaas was proud to see Iraq being represented at the World Championships, describing it as a dream come true.
“This was the first time that Iraq was in the World Championships, it was a great experience for our team. This is like a dream come true for us because for years we could not compete at the IMMAF events so now for our fighters to come and compete it will make them more experienced for the future and that’s what we’re looking for and working towards, this is a big thing for us.”
To be able to attend an event of that magnitude, meet with other federations and observe the proceedings of the day means Abaas and the team can return with a wealth of knowledge they can share to help the sport grow.
The ultimate goal is to improve results and win medals and this was just the beginning for them. And the experience gained will help them assist their fighters in becoming champions.
“I was talking to my brother, he works with me at my gym. I told him about everything we saw while there. I told him about the judges, the experience in the cage and how most of the fighters have more experience.”
“That [Results & Medals] is what we are looking for, the clubs back home and the federation is looking to help these fighters and make them a champion one day.”