France’s Iurie Bejenari recaps his journey to becoming IMMAF world champion

During 2015 IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA in Las Vegas this past July, one fighter in particular was noted for his clinical ability: Iurie Bejenari of France, the 2015 world champion and no.1 ranked flyweight. At the age of 33 he has spent less than 5 years developing his MMA game, but Bejenari’s dominant style can be traced back to his birthplace of Moldova where he began working on what would become the base of his impressive athleticism, wrestling. Wrestling has been widely regarded as the best discipline for a future mixed martial artist to begin with, and Bejenari’s 5’4” frame with low centre of gravity made him an ideal specimen. “I am from Moldova, where I started wrestling. Then a few years later I signed with a wrestling club in France, CBL 93 Red Devils, as reinforcement for their team in the first division. In the same club I met my current MMA coach, Fernand Lopez Owonyebe, who introduced me to MMA and gave me the taste for it. “I have been interested in MMA for a few years but I started to train seriously three years ago when “CrossFight” (current name MMA Factory) opened. I often trained with him and I became fond of the sport.” Prior to his 2015 gold medal success, Bejenari was selected to represent France in IMMAF’s inaugural 2014 World Championships. With a 2-0 amateur record he ventured to Las Vegas but his journey came to a bitter end on the opening day of competition. The Frenchman kicked off strongly and posted a dominant first round, showcasing swift striking and takedown defence against young Norwegian Kristian Skogmo. However, both fighters were left in shock as the doctor called a stop to the contest in between rounds due a cut sustained by Bejenari. “Thanks to my determination and my willingness I quickly made progress. One day my coach offered to test me with amateur fights. I did not hesitate and I threw myself into it. I went out with two wins and it was a great pleasure to be able to fight in the cage. Six months later I passed the selection for the 2014 IMMAF Amateur World Championships, within the Commission Francaise de Mixed Martial Arts (CFMMA). I was chosen for the team and then I was able to attend my first big MMA competition. “Unfortunately, during the first fight and having dominated the round, a cut opened over my brow bone and the doctor stopped the fight. This was my only defeat. I was disappointed, but a month later I was back in the cage with an idea in mind; to repeat the selections and go to the Amateur World Championships again in July 2015, and become World Champion in front of a Las Vegas audience.” Bejenari was angered by the setback but with his pursuit of redemption sparked, it would serve as the catalyst for his future reign as world champion Having returned to Las Vegas in 2015, Bejenari’s road to the gold consisted of three consecutive victories over the course of the single elimination tournament; a unanimous decision win over defending champion Carlos Hernandez (USA) on his first day of competition, followed by second round TKO stoppage against Brayden Graham (New Zealand), and finally, victory over Cedar Atlas (Sweden) as Bejenari accomplished his dream and won the championship with a TKO stoppage in the third round. “Throughout the competition I felt very well and very confident. I had a dream to fulfil since I had always played sports to one day become world champion, and for that I gave everything.” The French camp were keen to remain efficient in their preparations, and for each opponent a fresh game plan was developed. Remaining within the weight limit for up to a week can be a stressful commitment for many contenders, but Bejenari explained that every aspect of his preparation was met with perfection. “It is true that the first opponent before a competition is our weight and balance but I was feeling so good, I did not have that problem here. Throughout the competition I was serious about food and recovery after each fight and it allowed me to keep my form. “My three opponents were good fighters. So, before every fight my coach Fernand Lopez and the coaches who have followed us all throughout the adventure, Ludovic Dandin and David Pierre Louis, gave me a game plan for each opponent. It was very professional. “The Carlos Hernandez fight was rather difficult because, firstly, he was my first opponent in the competition, and secondly, he was the defending world champion. Winning this fight for me was very important and a direct ticket to the semi-finals. “Brayden Graham I defeated with ease. During the first minute I let the storm calm down, then the game plan planned by my coaches worked well. I won in the second round by referee stoppage. “My final opponent Sedar Altas was a complete fighter. I followed the advice of mu coaches during the fight and finished with a referee stoppage in the third round. I finally realized my dream!” Bejenari’s talent as a mixed martial artist has evolved wonderfully in a short space of time. IMMAF’s no.1 ranked flyweight does not attribute this to any physical ability that separates him from the rest, but simply expressed that the secret to his power comes from a recipe of sacrifice, concentration and team work. As part of his preparations, Bejenari invested in a trip to Team Alpha Male in California, to train alongside the likes of featherweight legend Urijah Faber, top ranked UFC featherweight Chad Mendes and T.J. Dillashaw, the reigning UFC bantamweight champion. “There’s no secret, the desire to win and become champion has pushed me to sacrifice a lot in order to concentrate on my training. “I had very good preparation with my team, three selection stages with CFMMA and important physical preparation with my coach, Gintaras Zilinskas. I learnt new things when trained with Urijah Faber’ team, Team Alpha Male, which I very much appreciated. Combined, all these things added to my power.” Bejenari described his experience of the IMMAF World Championships as “truly magical”, and as other champions have also stated, he looks forward to the anticipated further development of the competition and the welcoming of even more nations. “I think the organization of the championships is very well carried out by IMMAF, with priority attention given to the athletes. The live event in Las Vegas was truly magical. “Each year there are more and more countries that become affiliated with IMMAF and more athletes from around the world. This is how the competition will become more interesting.” Bejenari revealed that his next goal is to turn professional, but he would not rule out the possibility of first competing at the IMMAF European Championships which take place during November in Birmingham, England. Ultimate victory at the European Amateur Championships would see Bejenari written into the record books as a double gold medallist of Europe and the world. “My priority now is to move towards my goal and enter professional competition in a good organization. If by the time of the European Championship I am not engaged at a pro level then of course I’ll compete in the Europeans because it remains a good experience.” [/spb_text_block]

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