Above: 2017 European Open – Mexico’s Jonathan Ortega stopped Hungary’s Lajos Horvath via TKO in the opening round of the Men’s 155lb tournament By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran So far this year we have been given a taster of Mexican talent on the IMMAF international platform and there was no shortage of excitement. Now, Mexico approaches its first campaign at the IMMAF World Championships with the national amateur MMA team having near doubled in size following a debut IMMAF Championships appearance at the 2017 European Open in Bulgaria. In the city of Sofia, a squad of 4 athletes represented the nation: Jorge Alpizar, Mario Perez, Sara Cova and Jonathan Ortega, accompanied by team coaches Ulises San German, Enrique Mariscal and Raul Senk. At 19 years of age, Featherweight contender Alpizar was Mexico’s youngest representative. Despite losing out on the scorecards to Irishman Austin Lynch, Alpizar dazzled with unceasing determination, unpredictable strikes and leaping kicks. 20-year-old Perez featured in the Light-Heavyweight bracket, but after a back-and-forth round was stopped by Kazakhstan’s Kudaibergen Toleubaev, the eventual silver medalist. Strawweight Sara Cova, age 23, also went the distance with eventual finalist Anna Astvik. The Swede’s rounded abilities gave her the edge against Cova who in her debut provided interesting glimpses of a promising boxing skill set. Having recently gained further competitive grappling experience at the Mexico City International BJJ Open, Cova could be due a breakthrough performance at the 2017 World Championships in Bahrain. As the competition days progressed, 24-year-old Lightweight Jonathan Ortega emerged as the insanely durable face of team Mexico. Ortega had the honor of being the first Mexican to represent his country under the IMMAF banner and secured his nation’s first victories with back-to-back wins, first a TKO stoppage over Hungarian Lajos Horvath before a technical submission over France’s Campanella Mahio. Ortega was eliminated at the quarter-final stage via the scorecards after going the distance with two-time European Open champion Ferdun Osmanov. Mexico’s journey to Bulgaria was a short turnaround following the the nation’s conformation as an IMMAF member under the Mexican Federacion de Artes Marciales Mixtas Equidad y Juego Limpio (FAMMEJL). Formally registered in Mexico City, FAMMEJ represents an estimated 80% of the 10,000-strong national MMA community across 20 of Mexico’s states. The Amateur MMA governing body is recognised by INDEPORTE CDMX (National Institute of Sports Mexico City), CLAMM (Latin American Council of Mixed Martial Arts) and CONADE (National Commission of Physical Culture and Sport). The exiting trio of Ortega, Alpizar and Cova will each be in action in Manama, the Bahrain capital. Joining them in the national team will be 18-year-old Benjamin Cruz (light-heavyweight), 28-year-old Omar Lara (middleweight), 29-year-old Alan Garcia (welterweight) and 31-year-old Diego Parra (Bantamweight). Taking place at Khalifa Sports City Arena from 12 to 19 November, as part of Brave International Combat Week, the 2017 World Championships are anticipated to be the biggest event in the history of amateur MMA under IMMAF with more participants than ever before representing nations from all continents. 2017 marks the first year of the IMMAF Worlds taking place outside of Las Vegas, USA.