The international IMMAF platform is yet to crown a 3-time World Championships gold medalist, but 2020 could well be the year.
With national teams and the global talent pool of amateur contenders constantly evolving, the challenge to retain becomes ever greater each year as many would learn in 2019. Over 400 athletes and 50 national teams featured at the 2019 Unified IMMAF | WMMAA World Championships in November, the premier proving ground for the world’s best amateur MMA prospects.
Among them, three reigning champions would go on to equal the world record of being crowned world gold medalist for a second time. Since the inception of the IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas 2014, just 5 athletes had previously achieved the feat with each having since turned their attention to pro career aspirations.
Jose Torres (men’s bantamweight) USA – 2014, 2015
Will Starks (welterweight) USA – 2015, 2016
Irman Smajic (heavyweight) Sweden – 2016, 2017
Gase Sanita (women’s lightweight) New Zealand – 2017, 2018
Delyan Georgiev (men’s featherweight) Bulgaria – 2017, 2018
This year the exclusive list of pioneering champions welcomed two new faces at the senior level (age 18+) in addition to the first ever two-time junior world champion (under 21’s). All 3 standouts remain active amateur competitors and each is undefeated while still in the running for a history making third world title in 2020.
The hottest prospect in amateur MMA today, 19-year-old prodigy Muhammad Mokaev retained his junior men’s bantamweight gold medal for Team England in dazzling form, extending his amateur record to 21-0.
At the senior level, Kazakhstan’s Bagdat Zhubanysh continued his own unblemished form with masterful instincts and technique in the cage, adding a second men’s strawweight world title to his resume.
Monstrous super-heavyweight champion Pasha kharkhachaev secured a second gold medal in the +265lb division for Bahrain. While this year’s tournament served his toughest experience to date, the famed KO specialist proved to any skeptics that he could last all three rounds.
By IMMAF.org lead writer: Jorden Curran