SMMAF president: ‘Structure fuels the success of Swedish MMA’

Pictured above: Sweden’s 2016 IMMAF World Champions, from left to right – Gabriella Ringblom (Flyweight), Cornelia Holm (Bantamweight) and Irman Smajic (Heavyweight). Following completion of the 2016 IMMAF All Africa Open Championships in early September, Sweden’s national amateur MMA team has excelled at the summit of IMMAF’s international amateur rankings, ahead of South Africa in second place and followed by the USA, Bulgaria and Ireland who have each claimed a top-five position within the IMMAF Team Rankings. In addition, Swedish flyweight Gabriella Ringblom made history this year as the first female athlete to become the number-one ranked fighter in the IMMAF pound-for-pound listings. Having previously earned Silver at the 2014 World Championships and 2015 European Open, Ringblom progressed to win Gold at the 2016 World Championships in Las Vegas, followed most recently with another first place triumph at the Africa Open Championships in Johannesburg, South Africa. Since the inaugural IMMAF World Championships in 2014, the Swedish national team has maintained constant momentum that shows no signs of slowing. Throughout the year, the Swedes attend each contest on IMMAF’s international calendar, bolstered by one of the world’s most sizable squads with each athlete qualifying to compete via Sweden’s National Amateur Championships. IMMAF.org spoke with Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation (SMMAF) president Johan Halldin, to discuss the driving factors behind Sweden’s well established prominence within amateur MMA. “Of course we had some very early MMA exponents in Sweden, which fused with our sense of organization and structure have created a culture on how we practice.” The roots of SMMAF governance reach deep within the sport, from regulating clubs, to providing coaching education and looking after all stakeholders from recreational participants all the way up to professional elite athletes. In collaboration with the Swedish government, the implementation of the SMMAF’s participant progression scheme, the mandatory Competitor Safety Ladder, has proved to be the cornerstone for developing amateurs through various levels of competition via safe and consistent athletic progression. Click HERE to read more about the SMMAF Competitor Safety Ladder. The SMMAF president continued,“I think the main secret behind our success in MMA, both on a professional as well as on amateur level, is that we have a big advantage in having an MMA league and several promotions, making it possible for athletes to compete more and challenge each other before meeting challenges abroad; iron sharpens iron. “Also, we have a strong martial arts tradition in Sweden, mainly in wrestling and boxing, but also other combat sports. For being a rather small country we have a lot of excellent, high level martial artists and champions. As I see it we will only get stronger with time. Success feeds success and we are not near done improving.” Team Sweden will be looking to continue its dominance of 2016 at this year’s IMMAF European Open Championships, hosted by the Czech Mixed Martial Arts Association (MMAA). The international amateur event spans 5 days from 22 to 26 November in the Czech Republic, at the Prague’s Arena of Sparta. By IMMAF.org lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran

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