By Jake Smith
In our latest series of articles, IMMAF will focus on the highly talented women that work within the Federation. From cutwomen to commissioners, athletes to equipment managers, IMMAF will shine a light on our fantastic staff.
We begin inside the IMMAF Fighting Area, with one of the most decorated champions in the history of IMMAF, two-time World Gold medalist Sabrina De Sousa.
Originally hailing from Brazil, De Sousa now represents the Kingdom of Bahrain at IMMAF championships. Representing Bahrain and linking up the KHK MMA Team was the beginning of De Sousa’s rise in the IMMAF. She has been able to split her time training in both nations. Allowing her to mix it up has helped get a feel for different styles and develop all aspects of her game. She explained:
“Brazil and Bahrain are two very different realities. This helps me a lot to develop myself as an athlete and also as a human being. In Brazil, my training is a mix of everything, I have a team there and I train a bit of everything. In Bahrain, we train grappling a lot and this helped me a lot in my last fights at the IMMAF World Championships. This was my opponents’ main strategy, they kept trying to take me to the ground, so I was prepared to fight them in grappling.”
“There will always be a difference between the two countries, the training sessions, the focus, and the energy of each team are completely different. In Brazil, many of my training sessions are mixed with men and the girls there are also very experienced, some of them are in the UFC, which makes me get better each day. Here in Bahrain, my training sessions with the boys are more focused on wrestling. Each place has its own style and provides me with better learning.”
Ahead of her inaugural tournament in 2019, the pound-for-pound #2 was not fully aware of what to expect from an IMMAF Championship. However, since becoming a regular feature on the IMMAF scene, De Sousa’s love of competing in the IMMAF Championships has grown exponentially because of the opportunity it gives her to hone her skills as a mixed martial artist.
“I confess I didn’t know about IMMAF before 2019. My first interaction with the Federation was in the World Championships. I went to the competition to see how it all would go, and I embraced the opportunity. In the end, I enjoyed it quite a lot. That is why I kept going and here I am today. It’s such an amazing event, a unique experience for my amateur career, to grow as an athlete and develop my game for my future as a pro.
“IMMAF competitions are very interesting to me because it’s crazy to think that I can be fighting every day, reach weight every day and compete against athletes from all corners of the world, with their own characteristics. This is crazy and exciting for me! This is what I like the most about it all. I’m used to competing all the time, in jiu-jitsu or kickboxing competitions, so IMMAF adds value to that.”
Since her first IMMAF appearance, De Sousa has developed quite the name for herself, dominating the Featherweight division in every tournament she has entered, culminating in three gold medals thus far. With two World Championships & a European Championship to her name, and at only the young age of 21, De Sousa finds herself in the unique position of still developing her own game whilst simultaneously inspiring other young women in the sport. She said:
“I’m very happy and honoured to leave my mark in IMMAF’s history, inspiring women and leading the way to other athletes. Also educating people on what amateur MMA is and how it works, even though I don’t find it very amateur (laughs). The level of the competitions is really high. I hope I can encourage other athletes to embrace this experience and come to the competitions, and MMA fans to watch it, especially the women’s fights, from another perspective. I’m very happy to be seen as a role model to others.”
Admittedly, plans can change at any moment, but De Sousa has a history-making goal in mind before moving to the professional scene.
“Plans are always hard to make because things can change very quickly. So, I’m still not sure how much longer I’ll stay in the amateur ranks. I expect and am working hard to win my third World Champion title. I want to make history in IMMAF as the first woman to ever do it. But plans are plans, and things might change on the way to my goals. For now, this is my plan.” She exclaimed.
Whether she goes for a third World Championship or the pro ranks come calling first. De Sousa will undoubtedly go down as one of the most dominating champions in IMMAF history & is already doing a tremendous job inspiring fellow athletes to follow their dreams.