Above: Michele Oliveira takes the unanimous decision victory to win IMMAF Worlds gold medal – photo by Jorden Curran
Written by IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran
Last week the nation of Brazil made its competitive return to the IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA having been sorely missed for the past two years.
The nation’s official MMA regulator – Comissão Atlética Brasileira de MMA (CABMMA) – is among the world’s most well established domestic governing bodies for the sport and stands as one of the oldest IMMAF members. The nation first competed on the international IMMAF platform in 2014 at the inaugural World Championships in Las Vegas where Amanda Ribas, now a UFC contender, claimed the gold medal in the Women’s Flyweight division.
Having since been absent for both the 2015 and 2016 World Championships, CABMMA dispatched a team of representatives for Brazil’s highly anticipated return at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships in Manama, Bahrain.
From November 12-19 the Bahrain MMA Federation hosted the biggest amateur championships in history with over 250 athletes from 48 competing nations.
Accompanied by national coaches Eduardo Pachu and Rafael Bertho, team Brazil was represented by four athletes and products of some of the country’s most famous training facilities: Men’s Lightweight – Vitor Estevem (Team Nogueira), Men’s Bantamweight – Carlos Veras (Nova Uniao), Men’s Flyweight – Fabricio Barbosa (Tropa Thai) and Women’s Flyweight – Michele Oliveira (Nova Uniao).
Brazil inevitably entered the world’s top amateur proving ground with the burden of high expectation, due to the nation’s formidable reputation for producing MMA talent. The team suffered early losses as Estevem’s Muay Thai prowess came up short against the relentless takedowns of SBG Ireland’s Ciaran Clarke who pulled ahead on the judges scorecards. On Day 2 of the competition, it was Barbosa who faced elimination upon falling victim to Bahrain’s ever developing Hussain Abdulla who locked on a triangle choke in the opening round to score a major triumph for the host nation.
In contrast, 18-year-old Veras, the team’s youngest athlete, advanced to the quarter finals having submitted Irishman Ronan Butler before earning a unanimous decision victory in the final 16 over Sweden’s 2016 European Open champion, Renato Vidovic. However, Veras was in turn eliminated from the 135lb bracket by Albania’s Florian Doskja who progressed to earn a bronze medal.
The final chance for glory fell to 21-year-old Michele Oliveira in the Flyweight bracket – the deepest and most talent rich category of the five Women’s divisions.
The newcomer quickly established herself as a strong contender, progressing through the opening round of bouts and quarter-finals with stoppages over Ireland’s Dee Begley via TKO and Romania’s Luiza Ghita via an arm-triangle choke.
In the semi-finals Oliveira clinched one of the most significant victories of the entire 2017 IMMAF Worlds. The Brazilian faced off against previously undefeated Alexandra Kovacs – the gold medal favorite and two-time IMMAF European Open champion who in 2016 toppled former pound-for-pound number-1 Gabriella Ringblom.
Oliveira came out on top after a dramatic encounter in which she established a lead across two rounds before surviving the final stanza as Kovacs secured full mount and reigned down in hope of a last gasp stoppage as the final seconds ticked away. The Hungarian was left frustrated as time expired ahead of the impending 29-28 decision.
After a trio of impressive victories only 3 rounds of action remained between Oliveira and securing the gold medal for Brazil in the World Championship finals. She faced yet another Irish contender, the hardy Danni Neilan, who herself had edged a split-decision semi-final win over Finland’s prominent 2016 silver medalist, Anette Osterberg. With a unanimous decision victory Oliveira reached the pinnacle of amateur mixed martial arts.
“On behalf of CABMMA, I would like to thank the Bahrain MMA Federation and Bahrain Olympic Committee for the unforgettable week we had at the IMMAF Worlds,” CABMMA Executive Director Cristiano Sampaio stated, reflecting on the achievement. “Our team was honored to work side by side with entities and professionals that truly believe in our sport.
“Michele Oliveira’s gold medal will open new possibilities for Brazilian athletes, giving them a greater perspective and potential growth in their future careers.
“We sincerely hope that the success of this partnership between IMMAF and its national federation members can create a safe development of Mixed Martial Arts worldwide and set a mark in the history of combative sports.
“Insha Allah, we will be back next year to the beautiful and respectful country of Bahrain.”