By Caoilte de Barra
On May 31, the President of the Albanian Free Fighting Federation Arjan Rizaj was awarded the title of Special Civil Merit by the President of Albania. The title is a sign of appreciation and recognition of his merits in the sport and his time spent in the military.
The news came following a step forward for the federation after being accepted as a member of the Albanian National Olympic Committee (KOKSH) late last month. After playing such a vital role in the federation’s success, Rizaj explained the work that went into getting awarded such a title.
“I was awarded this title based on my career in the military and contribution to martial arts. From the training structure, bringing MMA to the country and the development of the sport to achieving high results in the Balkan, European and World Championships. And lastly, for the membership of the Federation of Albania in IMMAF.”
“It is an honour and privilege for me to get awarded by the President of the Republic with the title of Special Civil Merit. It is a title that defines work, love for work and helping people.”
After a historic month vital for the development of the sport in Albania, Rizaj sees the momentum and developments as an opportunity to build and hopes that state investment in the sport will come next. He said:
“A lot of work has been done, and step by step, I see that MMA is managing to get noticed. I hope we get support and investment from the State, as it is very fair to support this sport. It is important for young people because they get taught to avoid antisocial behaviour and spend time positively and proactively. It would help for the future of society.”
Accompanying him to the awarding was UFC Heavyweight Ilir Latifi, who was also receiving a title on the day.
“Ilir Latifi is the best example of his art in the UFC, and for this merit was decorated with the title of great master. I thank him because from time to time, we have exchanged positive thoughts on how we will greatly support the youth in our country.”
The federation continues to make great leaps and has recently held the third set of international championships where fifty athletes from clubs across both Albania and Kosovo competed.