By Jorden Curran
As the world’s premier proving ground for amateur MMA talent, each event on the IMMAF platform enables hundreds of athletes to represent their country, bid for legitimate world and continental titles and truly test themselves against elite counterparts, taking on diverse styles from around the world.
For many prospects the pursuit of such accolades is a prestigious means to an end to make the transition to become a professional contender. In his time at the international level, German standout Wladimir Holodenko did not claim an IMMAF championship medal, neither at the World or European championships which he contested. But while decorated winners will certainly see the pathway widen, it can be a gross misconception to think that a formidable amateur record is needed to set in motion a prosperous career as a pro.
Rather, in the case of Holodenko, an honest relationship with his own self-awareness, a clear knowing of why he was there, and all while dealing with great pressure, has contributed to his current place as a newcomer on the professional scene, currently 2-0 and coming off a first-round knockout victory in his last outing.
Instead of chasing down more accessible victories on the German domestic scene, Holodenko placed himself in the deep end as an amateur while fully aware of limitations that could leave him exposed. “My takedowns were really terrible at that time,” he said. This admission, coupled with the desire to test himself, is what enabled Holodenko to grow as an athlete and still find his validation at the elite amateur level. This validation came at the 2018 IMMAF World Championships. Representing the German national team for a second time, Holodenko pulled off a Triangle Choke submission in just 55 seconds against English prospect Jahmel Westcarr.
“After the European Open (his international debut), where I lost on a split decision, it was very hard for me. It was much harder to compete at the World Championships, I had so much pressure on me to not lose there. When we were drawn to face England, we looked on Youtube for some moments from the opponent and the plan was to fight standing up, as I was a K1 fighter.
“I had him in the clinch and went for the takedown, my takedowns were really terrible at that time and I landed on my back, but this was a familiar moment for me as my coach loves the triangle. I love the triangle too; I had won four or five amateur bouts [via triangle choke] and also in the German Championships as a white belt versus a purple belt in the finals.
“When I had his head between my legs, I squeezed as hard as I can and pulled down on his neck. The pressure was finally away, and it was a crazy moment for me. I was never thinking that I would win this fight so fast. We trained for three rounds and I can fight for three rounds, no problem, I don’t run after the knockout or don’t run after the submission. It shocked me, it was everything so fast and I couldn’t believe it until I was back in the hotel.”
When pursuing a tenure in amateur MMA, an athlete is best served to reap the benefits by following a path laid out with a clear vision. Results may see that path deviate for better or worse, but a journey regulated by self-awareness can still take the hopeful to their desired destination.