The opening day of the 2023 IMMAF Youth World Championships was a whirlwind of action from start to finish.
Taking place under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, the Youth C group stages began at 10 am (UTC +4), with the event continuing throughout the day, culminating in an exhilarating series of finale bouts.
The next generation of MMA is even brighter, with the talent level on display in the Youth C divisions nothing short of sensational.
Building on an extremely successful 2022, Team Ukraine has picked up where it left off.
Denys Hunda, Yehor Uhnnivenko, Zlata Klein and Iryna Martseniuk all captured gold, which when combined with the six silver and nine bronze medals the nation also claimed, places Ukraine firmly atop the medal leaderboard.
In terms of individual performances, Ireland was of particular note. Roman Verhoeven announced himself to the MMA world, displaying a level of technical mastery in his techniques that belies his years, finishing every bout via submission. Dylan Wheaton also picked up a highlight-worthy victory, claiming a TKO win via body kick in under 10 seconds.
Host nation UAE had a perfect start to proceedings, as Saif Alblooshi claimed gold in a thrilling final that saw him defeat Team Tajikistan’s Khurshedjon Shokirov via unanimous decision in the men’s 40KG division. Alblooshi’s impressive win saw him follow in the footsteps of Jasem Al Hosani, who, in 2022, became the first UAE athlete in IMMAF history to win a gold medal.
Aisha AlHammadi and Rakan Alyammahi also represented the host nation well, both capturing silver medals in impressive fashion.
Kerrith Brown, IMMAF President stated: “It was an excellent start to the day here at the Mubadala Arena. Thanks to the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Khaled bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, and the hard work of the UAE Jiu Jitsu and Mixed Martial Arts Federation, the level of organisation is even more fantastic this year. It is especially great to see the UAE with a gold medal on the very first day of competition, showing the importance of strong youth development programmes at grassroots level.”
Team USA and Team Tajikistan saw their athletes claim two gold medals each, coming in at second and third on the medals table respectively.
Despite bringing considerably smaller squads than the likes of Ukraine and USA, Teams Lebanon, Armenia and Northern Ireland all had athletes capture gold medals, despite the odds being stacked against them.
Densign White MBE, IMMAF CEO said: “The 2023 IMMAF Youth World Championships have set a new benchmark as the biggest event in IMMAF history. Athletes aged 12-13 today began their IMMAF journey and already we are seeing an extremely high calibre of talent. As CEO, I’m excited to follow our athletes as they progress through the IMMAF ranks and continue their development as competitors and young adults.”
A full list of medalists from Day 1 of the 2023 Youth World Championships can be found right here.
Day 2 of the competition will see the Youth B divisions move to the forefront. Watch the 2022 IMMAF Youth MMA World Championships for 12 to 17-year-olds live from Abu Dhabi from 2 – 5 August at IMMAF.tv.