Interview by Joe Price
It has been a crazy four years since Bulgaria last hosted an IMMAF event, after Sofia was home to the 2017 IMMAF European Championships. In that time, IMMAF has welcomed more successful athletes to its alumni list, continued to stage international events for athletes of all ages, whilst facing a pandemic and coming out of the other side.
The pandemic has proved to be thorn in the side of everyone since it was first reported in 2019, and it almost prevented the IMMAF Youth MMA World Championships going ahead this weekend.
After initial complications meant Turkey could not host the event at this time, a new nation would be required to step in. Thankfully, Bulgaria was ready.
There will be few people who have the knowledge that Stanislav Nedkov, the president of the Bulgarian MMA Federation, possesses. Since 2013, he has overseen an overall development of his country’s sport of MMA, whilst his insight as an ex-veteran of the UFC has paid dividends across the board.
Having lived the dream first-hand, Stanislav explained what the sport means to the people of Bulgaria.
“MMA is one of the biggest sports in Bulgaria.”
“With over 320 medals from international events, it makes it one of our most successful sports. Many coaches work with athletes of all ages; some are competitive, others do it because they are passionate about the sport. Our success has stemmed from the country’s attraction to the sport, and shows the federation and coaches are both doing a great job.”
“We try to make everything possible for the sport to be fun and accessible for everyone in Bulgaria, people love it in this nation.”
It is not sheer coincidence that the nation’s coaches are investing their time in young athletes. This is something that Stanislav believes to be of great importance to the future successes of the Bulgarian MMA team.
With over 20 athletes representing Bulgaria at the Youth MMA World Championships this weekend, the focus on the youth has evidently paid off in the number of junior athletes competing.
“We want the youth to be happy,” said Stanislav.
“The Bulgarian MMA federation was established in 2014, and one of the main priorities has been the development of the young athletes. We know that by focusing on the youth today, it will mean they can become Olympic athletes of the future.”
“We hope that as early as the Los Angeles Olympics in 2028 our youth competitors can go and represent us well. We have been working with kids from quite a young age, so that they have these opportunities to grow. Our commitment to the young Bulgarian athletes becoming successful will see all the hard work become worthwhile.”
The happiness that Stanislav seeks to provide will be present evermore for the young athletes back to compete at an international event once again. Having stepped in to provide a destination for the championships to go ahead, Stanislav appreciates the faith put in him and his home nation to welcome back competitions.
“It is a huge honour for us to host this event!”
“We know it is a big responsibility stepping in to host this event because of the COVID-19 situation, but one we welcome. We know that the IMMAF team and participants really trust us to stage the event.
“They expect us to do it well, and we know we can meet their expectations.”
Bulgaria showcased its tremendous hosting abilities back in 2017, highlighting itself as an ideal candidate to replace the neighboring country of Turkey. The cohesive nature of the IMMAF family is an indispensable trait at difficult times.
It is this trusting relationship between IMMAF and its associated countries that leads to great things and successful events. The organisation is built upon a foundation of teamwork and a love for the sport of MMA, which has seen Stanislav eagerly welcome back its competitors.
“We know that many athletes, especially the youth, haven’t competed due to COVID because of international restrictions stopping events. They still trained in this country at home, and prepared to compete, but it isn’t the same,” he said.
“We are delighted to have the events back, and to host makes it even more special. We have done our best to organise everything to the best level we can, and the safest way we can.”
“We are really grateful to IMMAF for their support, and we hope that all athletes and IMMAF members will feel safe here and enjoy the event.”
Bulgaria has been an IMMAF member since 2015, and its love of MMA stems much further back than that.
Looking forward, the president of the Bulgarian MMA Federation is thankful that IMMAF can provide a nurturing platform. Having fought in the UFC, arguably the pinnacle of the sport, Stanislav knows that the IMMAF route is the right one to take.
“IMMAF’s role in helping to build our athletes is really important. All the countries that identify themselves as an IMMAF member feel really comfortable being with the organisation, without a doubt.”
“We feel safe in the knowledge that they have a good pathway for athletes to progress. The future is bright because IMMAF provides an international platform for them to grow and gain valuable experience.”
“Although we know our athletes have a long way to go to, all athletes dream of making it to the UFC. With IMMAF, we know that the dream can be made a reality, and our thanks goes to Kerrith Brown, Densign White and the team for all that they do.”
Stanislav’s excitement for the event is shared by all involved with the occasion, as IMMAF can finally welcome back competition.
Follow all the action live at: IMMAF.TV
IMMAF would like to thank Stanislav Nedkov and all involved with the Bulgarian MMA Federation for making this event possible.