By Frank Bonada
The year 2023 proved to be a landmark period for IMMAF alumni who transitioned into the professional ranks of mixed martial arts. Former IMMAF competitors celebrated victorious debuts, ascended to title contention and a select few even secured coveted championship accolades.
The relationship between IMMAF and BRAVE CF continues to bear fruit, showcasing exhilarating bouts featuring IMMAF alumni under the banner of the Bahrain-based promotion. In August, two-time IMMAF World Champion Jose Torres captured the BRAVE CF bantamweight title in a closely contested five-round battle against IMMAF Africa Champion Nkosi Ndebele. Their rematch in December saw Ndebele emerge victorious, setting the stage for an anticipated trilogy bout in 2024.
Noteworthy performances extended beyond Torres and Ndebele; Ramazan Gitinov, among IMMAF’s most accomplished athletes, put on three sensational performances, including making history with the fastest TKO finish in BRAVE CF history. Three-time IMMAF World Champion Sabrina de Sousa made a dominant pro debut, while Eliezer Kubanza, a two-time IMMAF Africa Champion, notched two stunning highlight-reel finishes.
In the UFC, former IMMAF Champions Manon Fiorot and Muhammad Mokaev continued to ascend in their divisions. Fiorot defeated former UFC Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas, earning a No.1 contender bout against Erin Blanchfield in March. Mokaev, victorious over UFC veteran Tim Elliott, is slated to face Alex Perez in the UFC’s inaugural event in Saudi Arabia in 2024.
IMMAF World Champion Brendan Allen also continued to impress, defeating André Muniz, Bruno Silva, and Paul Craig, securing the No.8 spot in the UFC’s middleweight division. Several former IMMAF athletes made impactful UFC debuts, with Chepe Mariscal and Shamil Gaziev leaving a lasting impression. Shauna Bannon and Kiefer Crosbie, despite coming up short in challenging debuts, are rebooked in early 2024.
Beyond the UFC, 2017 IMMAF World Silver medallist Danni McCormack captured and defended the Invicta FC Strawweight title with a pair of impressive performances. Axel Sola, a multi-time IMMAF Continental Champion, claimed the ARES FC Lightweight belt with a knockout victory over Turpal Younousov.
Ayan Tursyn, Aieza Bertolso, Michelle Montague, and Cecilie Bolander all also advanced their burgeoning pro careers with notable victories in top promotions such as the PFL and LFA.
As we enter 2024, look for further remarkable achievements from IMMAF alumni, including the likes of 2023 World Champions Otabek Rajabov, Patrick Habirora, and Ze Machado as they make their transition to professional mixed martial arts.