By Frank Bonada
Over the past decade, the IMMAF pathway has proven to be an invaluable asset for amateur MMA athletes, paving the way for their subsequent success in the professional scene.
A decade after the inaugural IMMAF World Championships in 2014, the benefits of a well-nurtured amateur career are becoming increasingly evident. Held in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA, the inaugural IMMAF World Championships witnessed outstanding performances by Team USA’s Chepe Mariscal and Carlos Hernandez, both of whom clinched IMMAF gold. Fast forward to 2024, and both fighters have secured positions in the UFC’s featherweight and flyweight divisions. Mariscal, with a 2-0 record, and Hernandez, holding a 2-2 record, have triumphed over notable opponents, showcasing their prowess in the promotion.
Brazil’s Amanda Ribas, another gold medallist at the 2014 IMMAF World Championships, has emerged as a formidable contender in the UFC since her debut in 2019. Her victories against elite competitors like Mackenzie Dern and Viviane Araujo have propelled her into the top ten of both the women’s strawweight and flyweight divisions.
In the 2015 IMMAF World Championships, held once again in Las Vegas, Brendan Allen (USA) announced himself to the world by claiming the IMMAF middleweight World title, defeating all opponents via rear-naked choke. Allen’s successful transition to professional MMA included capturing the LFA title and earning a UFC contract through Dana White’s Contender Series. Presently, as a 13-fight UFC veteran, Allen is eyeing a middleweight title shot, holding victories over renowned opponents like Paul Craig and Kevin Holland.
Muhammad Mokaev (UK), a two-time IMMAF Jr. World Champion, boasts an undefeated record of 33-0 across amateur and professional competition. Mokaev is currently set for his toughest test to date in early 2024. He will compete on the UFC’s first card to be held in Saudi Arabia, where he faces off against former title challenger Alex Perez. A win here would likely put Mokaev right on track to a No.1 contender bout against a top-five opponent.
Meanwhile, 2017 IMMAF World Champion Manon Fiorot (France) is one win away from her own UFC title shot. Riding an 11-fight win streak, Fiorot is set to headline a UFC event against Erin Blanchfield, with the winner more than likely set to challenge UFC flyweight champion Alexa Grasso.
Three-time IMMAF Continental Champion Shamil Gaziev (Bahrain), 2015 IMMAF European Champion Jack Shore (Wales), and 2021 IMMAF Senior World Cup gold medallist Shauna Bannon (Ireland) are all recognized as top prospects in their respective divisions, with bright futures in the promotion ahead of them.
Finally, 2019 IMMAF Youth World Champion, Raul Rosas Jr. made history at UFC 282, where he became the youngest athlete in UFC history following an impressive win on Dana White’s Contender Series. Since then, Rosas Jr. has gone 2-1 in the UFC, and is on track to become a huge star in the future.
A host of IMMAF Champions and alumni are now truly hitting their stride in the pro-MMA ranks, with the likes of Axel Sola, Ramazan Gitinov, Eliezer Kubanza, Ayan Tursyn and many more all destined for huge things in the years to come.