While no man was able to derail the momentum of light-heavyweight juggernaut, Murtaza Talha Ali, it was a hand injury requiring surgery that forced the undefeated 23-year-old out of action for over a year.
Since he charged to gold medals for Bahrain at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships and 2018 European Open, much has changed in the 205lb division, in the absence of its former ruler.
“My hand is good now,” he told IMMAF.org, “I did good rehabilitation in Bahrain with our team doctors. I’m punching, doing wrestling 100% now and starting my camp for Worlds.”
Following the amalgamation of the International MMA Federation (IMMAF) and World MMA Association (WMMAA), the first Unified Word Championships took place in 2018 with Murtaza forced to watch on as Russia dominated across the board.
“I think after WMMAA became part of us (IMMAF) it’s more competitive now, I think it’s very good for our sport,” Murtaza commented.
Magomed Shakhrudinov (pictured above) took dominance of the division to a new level at the 2018 Worlds, with three first round stoppages (1 TKO, 2 submissions) en route to the final where he bested team mate Ruslan Shidakov with a second round rear-naked-choke, as Russia took both the gold and silver medals at 205lbs.
Murtaza’s return drew closer, but was not soon enough for the 2019 European Open, taking place last June. Hosted in Rome, it was Russia’s 2018 junior world champion, Igor Glazkov, who transitioned flawlessly to the senior ranks, destroying all comers as he captured the continental title. Murtaza’s hold on the division was now fully broken.
In the latest Russian nationals and qualifying for the 2019 senior world championships, Shakhrudinov defeated Glazkov in the light-heavyweight final and thus will be Russia’s leading man at 205lbs once again.
While starved of competition for over a year, Bahrain’s top light-heavyweight product has seen the nation achieve retain place in the world team rankings following this year’s European open in Rome. Now, his contribution to the team will be reignited.
“I’m very hungry for fighting,” he stated. “I miss that feeling, to be inside cage. I Cannot wait.” The 2019 IMMAF – WMMAA World Championships take place from 11-16 November and are expected to once again to break records and further raise the bar for premier level amateur competition.
Murtaza’s heavy overhand-right and anvil-like top control brought great frustration to rivals across his 8-0 run from 2017-2018. Now, Murtaza’s greatest challenge to date awaits him upon returning to the IMMAF-WMMAA World Championships in November, where the division has further deepened and every triumph will count in the coveted national team rankings, where Bahrain sit in first place, hotly followed by a hellbent Team Russia, currently in second.
By IMMAF.org lead writer, photographer: Jorden Curran