Josh Ellis recaps his 2015 IMMAF gold medal journey

Following his gold medal success in the Male lightweight division of this years’ IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA, Team UK’s Josh Ellis (8-0) recently discussed his IMMAF journey, the Las Vegas experience and his amateur career so far when he featured on The War of the Words Podcast, hosted by Andreas Georgiou. The the 23-year-old Swansea native detailed the early chapters of his road from Wales to the world championships in Las Vegas, which began with the UKMMAF open tryouts. “I just found out about it online. They (UKMMAF) posted a few trial dates, there was a short notice one in Wales and then it got cancelled. So I just had to travel up to Gloucester which was about an hour and half – two hours away from me, and that was the trial that I consistently went to. I think there was three or four other locations around the UK. There’d be Thai pads, there’d be grappling, wrestling, we just got marked on everything and then a few got pushed through to the next trial and they narrowed us down to the finalists. “In the Gloucester tryouts, I think for the first trial there was about thirty to thirty-five [participants]. That’s a range of weights, a few women as well. We only took one woman out to represent the UK team (Amy Omara) but there were two or three [at the Gloucester tryouts]. It’s good to see.” The UKMMAF tryouts were the first IMMAF related activity that Ellis has taken part in, and following his first taste of what they had to offer, he would now recommend the IMMAF experience to any athlete looking to make the most of their amateur career. “It’s a really good organisation. I’d advise it to any amateur, to try and get involved and represent the UK team.” Making the trip to Las Vegas, the bustling central hub for professional MMA in the United States, could seem like an imposing and monumental venture to many low key amateur competitors, let alone a 23-year-old from the more serene landscape of Wales. While the mental preparation was nothing strenuous for Ellis, he made the most of the time he had by taking a fight that required a lengthy journey similar to the flight time to Las Vegas, and while undergoing a weight cut. “I’m always prepared in training, but it is a little bit of a bigger deal. There is more weight your shoulders, but training is the same and my attitude was the same. I had a fight a month before going out to Vegas, up in Sunderland, on “Made 4 the Cage” and that’s about a seven-hour drive for me. So I thought that would be brilliant preparation. Seven hours to Newcastle is as good as I’m gonna get prep-wise, as a Welsh boy. “I was going out there with the mentality of winning it.” For successive years, Team UK has been coached by UFC veterans, each with a colorful personality. Luke Barnatt lead the charge in 2014 and the reigns were handed to John Maguire for 2015 whose efforts helped to secure the UK’s first IMMAF gold medal, won by Ellis. “He’s a top man, John. I got to know him really well going out to Vegas, his coaching style suits me down to a tee because he has a similar mindset, just a great a guy, a great laugh; gets you nice and comfortable. Brilliant to have him in your corner warming you up and a good mate as well, really good. “He knows his way around Vegas as well,” Ellis joked, “taking us to all the food restaurants. The first week he was rubbing it on a bit because I was living off salads and he was going for the “Man vs. Food” combos. He didn’t finish it.” Ellis explained how the single elimination tournament format, with short notice draws, suited his preparation style. “I don’t really like looking into my opponents too much, so the tournament style didn’t make a difference to me in some sense. A lot of people like to do their research but I train everywhere, I’m comfortable everywhere, I’ll take the fight as it comes. “[The opponent draw] was pretty much the night before. We had our team leaders on a Facebook group telling us who we were fighting. It was pretty short notice.” However, Ellis explained how the potential four days of competition, with a rest day before the finals, is not for the undetermined. “If you’ve got a weak mindset, the tournament’s not for you. There’s so many little things going on, you’ve just got to switch off and do your own thing. Even though it’s good to have your team, you’ve got to be a bit solo-minded to get the job done.” The Welshman’s dominance of the lightweight bracket began with a first round Guillotine choke submission over Fedrun Osmanov of Bulgaria, but his quarter final victory against Austria’s Bogdan Grad provided more of a test, something that Ellis was grateful to experience having never before faced an opponent who could last the distance. “That was the first fight where I’ve gotten out the first round, so it was nice to get some rounds in and he was a good boy to be fair to him. His wrestling wasn’t very good but his stand-up and his grappling was pretty good, so I just took my time and picked him apart with ground and pound for three rounds. It was a tough fight but a comfortable win, I knew I had the decision but was trying to finish.” Ellis faced Italian Davide Gregorio La Torre in the semi-final. His momentum was building, as well as the crowds. “The shows were getting busier, everything was running really smoothly. Leading up to the final everything was getting better and better. “Going into the semis I couldn’t actually throw a jab due to being put in an arm-bar the fight before. I knew the guy was a boxer. I had coaches telling me. I knew I had to take this guy down. I took his back straight away in the first round, dominated the first round then pretty much the same again in the second round; [I’m] on his back, he turned around, I transitioned to a triangle and knew that was it. It felt nice to get a finish because I knew I needed to with the elbow.” The comradery between opponents was on show at the championships, and Ellis embraced the good nature. “In this tournament I knew how much effort I put in going out there. Straight away I was offering to shake hands, show good sportsmanship, because all the amateurs have self-funded being there. They’ve probably trained for eight weeks, the same as me. It’s a big effort so I was being respectful.” The well placed rest day before the finals was a welcome break for Ellis before heading to the UFC Fan Expo to compete in the finals as part of the UFC’s International Fight Week. “On the Friday I had the day off. The finals were on Saturday at the UFC Fan Expo so I had a day to recover; compression and icing it as much as possible. It wasn’t brilliant but I already knew that going into the tournament you’re going to have niggles. It’s probably the same for every other fighter,  and it didn’t even bother me on the Saturday – it was fine. “I think we were one of the first ones in there at the Fan Expo, so we had a nice walk around. It was a huge arena. “[When] it was time to warm up, the Expo was rammed. It was mental. “I couldn’t get to enjoy it all myself, but it was cool to be part of it, one of the best experiences you can get as an amateur.” In the gold medal bout Ellis took on Finland’s undefeated Tuukka Repo, with the likes of UFC legends Chuck Liddell, Bas Rutten and B.J. Penn in attendance. Ellis was forced to go the distance one more time, but he was ready. “I take everything very seriously, even though I’m an amateur I train like a pro. I throw everything into my training so doing three rounds isn’t difficult. I won the fight easily but he wasn’t easy to beat. I couldn’t put him away. I had a few opportunities, maybe on the ground, but I knew where I was with the rounds. I like finishing fights, that’s what I do, but he defended well to be fair.” The IMMAF experience and the platform it has provided is something that Ellis feels is a great step in the evolution of governing in Mixed Martial Arts, and he foresees a future where the amateur world championships are seen in the same light as that of boxing in the Olympics. “You don’t get many amateurs with much publicity, especially in Wales. There’s really good fighters up and coming now in the pro’s but among the amateurs it’s pretty much unheard of, so it was awesome. “I think it’s a great platform and it’s only going to get better. They’ve got some support from the UFC so hopefully, if they can build on that, who knows? Maybe there could be a contract at the end of the world [championships] in five or ten years’ time. “Each year the standard is just going to rocket up, as there’s going to be more people entering from each country. The quality of amateurs is always improving and I think in this tournament there’ll be high caliber amateurs and they’ll be looking to do well at professional level too I think. You could see that this year, that a lot of people are going to do well as pro’s.” What’s next? Ellis is currently committed to a further six months of amateur competition to gain maximum experience before turning professional. In November, he plans on competing at the IMMAF European Amateur Championships in Birmingham, England. [/spb_text_block]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *