By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran Former two-weight UFC world champion Conor McGregor took to Instagram to congratulate SBG Ireland team mate Lee Hammond on winning his 2018 Senior Amateur MMA world title. Hammond, age 21, returned to the international amateur platform a year after withdrawing suddenly from the 2017 IMMAF World Championships, due to a freak training accident that caused the athlete to suffer a ruptured bowel. Hammond, the 2016 European Open silver medalist, was back representing the Irish MMA Association (IMMAA) national team at the biggest competition in the history of Amateur MMA, the 2018 IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships, taking place from 11-18 November in Bahrain. In fine style, Hammond exemplified the standard of athlete that makes the Amateur World Championships the top proving for developing competitors. The young Irishman hit the ground running, making waves on the opening day of competition with 31 other rivals in the men’s senior lightweight bracket. The now famous ‘Hammoplata’ went viral as he stopped Moldova’s Stefan Tonu in the first round with one of the most unique submission techniques ever seen.
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His momentum continued into Day 2 of the competition, another first round submission via rear-naked-choke, tapping out Sweden’s Mario Markus. However, the true extent of Hammond’s current form was realised in the quarter-finals where the depths of his BJJ credentials were showcased in clinching a split-decision win over the division standout, Ukraine’s reigning IMMAF European Open champion, Pavel Senchenko, who was on a tear of his own with two prior first round stoppages via submission and TKO. As Kazakhstan’s Adilbek Kairgali failed his semi-final day medical, Hammond advanced to Day 5 where he would meet Finland’s Marko Sarasjärvi, Hammond’s subsequent greatest test of championships. The duo faced off in the gold medal decider. Sarasjärvi, who had seen off three opponents during the week, forced the best of Hammond who battled to escape a seemingly locked on arm-bar attempt. Hammed edged a split-decision triumph through the ultra-competitive grappling exchanges, taking the 2018 senior lightweight world title back to the Republic of Ireland.
In total, three Irish athletes secured gold medals at this year’s world championships. Joining Hammond; undefeated Ger Harris was crowned champion in the inaugural men’s junior flyweight division, while senior heavyweight competitor Ryan Spillane continued his own golden from, adding the world title to his European Open crown secured earlier this year.