By Caoilte de Barra
From July 1-3, the English Mixed Martial Arts Association hosted the inaugural four nations championships. The four participating nations were England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales. The event was held at the Exhibition Centre in Liverpool, England, and was a part of the FitXpo. Bouts across junior and senior categories were contested over three days, followed by a medal ceremony.
UFC stars such as Paddy Pimblett and Molly McCann were in attendance, the latter on corner duties across the three days. IMMAF President Kerrith Brown also attended the event to watch some of the best athletes from each nation.
England’s Shanelle Dyer was one of the nation’s standout athletes, winning gold at flyweight. The division had only three entries and therefore became a round-robin. Dyer won her first bout via TKO/KO before meeting Ireland’s Sinéadh Ní Nualláin in the final, a match-up that received a standing ovation and was arguably the best across the three days.
Jack Dunleavy was another English athlete that shone. He finished both bouts with an anaconda choke in the opening round to take gold in the junior welterweight division.
The Irish team went undefeated until the final day of the competition and only lost one bout in the end. Long-standing Irish team representative Solomon Simon dominated in the Lightweight division. Ross Quearney returned to winning ways in style, adding two submission victories to his record at bantamweight.
The team’s breakout star was Mohammed Avtarhanov, who made his competitive MMA debut at the Four Nations. The light heavyweight gold medalist submitted his way to the top of the podium without having to go past the first round.
Scotland arrived with a strong team that won multiple medals. However, it was Kunle Lawal that stole the show. The welterweight overcame stiff competition in all of his three match-ups in his matches. His performances saw him pick up a gold medal and the athlete of the competition award. The award also came with a monetary prize of £500.
Despite losing several athletes after some had to pull out, the Wales team still impressed. Ethan Ridler shared the top of the podium with Jordan Molinari after they finished the competition with a win a piece. In an all-Wales clash, Roan Crocker locked in a north-south d’arce choke over Rhys Hughes and forced the tap. The 2018 junior welterweight european gold medalist overcame three opponents on his route to gold, including wins over the highly-touted Sean Clancy and Joe Ambler.
Post-event, EMMAA Head of Performance Paul Reed gave his thoughts on how the event ran and how important it was for MMA in the UK and EMMAA. He said:
“Ultimately, the quality of the fights was out of this world. No real injuries, no issues, the competitors behaved incredibly well and were really respectful, and the feedback from them is one of the benchmarks for me. They loved it and were thankful for the opportunity. They got a few bouts over the weekend, and when I hear that from the competitors, it makes it all worth it.
“For me, to sum it up, it was massively successful, rewarding, and a massive step forward for EMMAA. There is nobody who can deny that this is the way forward for amateurs.
“I think we’re doing things incredibly well. Look at the medical standards and the officials, all UFC level. Look at the standards we’re putting in with the staff; it’s the highest level. People come and compete in their bouts at the weekend, knowing that this is in a safe environment and well looked after. Ultimately, we’re invested in this. We’re not a show with pressure to make margin, this is just an investment in athletes, and without a doubt, it’s the way forward.”
Each nation will have a different takeaway from the event. Still, it was a much more relaxed and safe environment for amateur athletes to gain experience against international competition without the pressure shows can bring. Overall, the inaugural EMMAA Four Nations was a resounding success and laid the foundations for the federation to build on.