By Caoilte de Barra
Mexico has been nothing short of electric every time they arrive at an IMMAF competition. Each time they land, despite extensive periods of travelling, they bring energy like no other. From the dancing and chanting to the performances in the cage, they always make themselves known. This was evident back at the 2021 World Championships in Abu Dhabi and the SuperCup in Bahrain has been no different.
Their late addition to the SuperCup opened up a big opportunity for both the federation and their athletes. Team Coach Danny Solorzano explained the short time frame they had to put together a team for the tournament.
“The whole process was like a week, as soon as they told us, we had a meeting with the president of the federation and spoke about the convenience for every athlete that participated in the World Championships. So after that, we started picking the available people.”
“As soon as they told us, we started making some calls to the selection team that we took to the Championships. After that we started making a little group, some of them couldn’t make it and some of them couldn’t be ready at that time because it was only going to be four days until they had to get their tickets and all that stuff so it was really hard.”
“After that, we had two replacements that were available to recover the spots that were missing and then everything was ready.”
The team had to travel quite the distance to make it to the tournament. He explained that they all had to take multiple flights spanning across two days to compete.
“Every fighter flew to Mexico City, from there we went to Spain, after that we went to Dubai and then onto Bahrain. It was about two days of a trip.
“This time, we flew the entire team together, but we stopped off in Dubai for about 8 hours. We left Mexico on Saturday and didn’t get here until Monday night, almost Tuesday.”
Mexico currently sits outside of the top ten in the senior national team rankings but expect to improve this position and rub shoulders with some of the best nations in the World on the podium.
“You’re going to hear about Mexico more often in the first place. Right now we’re making a generation where their mindset isn’t just participating. We’re going to be competing with the best of the best the whole of the time. You will see us in this situation more often, surprising people.”
This rise is currently underway after reaching the semi-finals of the SuperCup. A win over Ireland guarantees them some prize money. Danny believes that going home with some money could go a long way in helping develop athletes at all levels and the federation itself.
“We are going to use that to make something and to help build a platform for a lot of athletes, create more clinics, more seminars, stuff that will help make the federation grow, help little kids and the athletes we are already working with to get better, faster and stronger.”
“This prize will help us get another prize as soon as we can. This opportunity is just the beginning of something big.”
As for the athletes, the experience they have gotten from both the World Championships and SuperCup has been incredible. Danny detailed that some fighters got on a plane for the first time for these competitions.
“When we had the World Championships last month, some of them had their first flight in their whole life. They got their passport for the first time. It is nice that sport is helping them know the World and know what’s out there. They have probably visualized themselves in something so little and now realise how big they can see how big they can be doing something they love.
“And they are doing something that will be a story they will never forget, something they will tell their grandchildren about.”
Emotions have run high with some athletes. At the World Championships, some felt the pressure and feared failing those who helped put funds towards their trip. However, once they get into the cage, they give it everything and leave it all in there.
The SuperCup has eased a financial burden with the expenses covered for the trip to Bahrain, an overwhelming experience, but one that has brought out a different look in the Mexican team who feel no pressure heading into the competition. The federation sees the difference and are hoping to find ways to help fighters in every possible way in the future.
“Whenever you get something like we are getting right now, they get emotional because they come from something so humble to where they are right now.”
“As soon as they got here, you could see their faces were different. Right now, it feels like a totally different energy. It is something that we’re seeing and looking at as a federation. We’re making different programs to help them out in different ways so that when competition comes around, we’re helping them the best we can.”
Mexico returns to action tomorrow to face Ireland in the semi-final. With many of their fighters fresh, they will be looking to upset the odds once again. You can watch all the action tomorrow on IMMAF.tv.