Rep. of Ireland Enters Junior MMA World Championships as Highest Ranked Nation

Picture: Team Ireland was among the most successful nations at the 2018 IMMAF European Open

Governing body the International MMA Federation (IMMAF) presented exclusive junior divisions for the first time back in June, at its 2018 European Open Championships. Representing the nation alongside their senior counterparts, Irish up and comers age 18-20 took the competition by storm to claim first place in the junior team medal table.

Claiming 2 golds, 2 silver and 4 bronze, Ireland was established as the front runner of the junior platform while also taking fifth place in the top flight senior championships, open to all ages from 18+.

This month, the Irish MMA Association (IMMAA) has the opportunity to solidify itself as the world’s leading developer of young competitors in mixed martial arts, as home grown juniors look to scale the mountain that is the 2018 IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships.

IMMAF’s decision to introduce junior level competition is explained as an added opportunity for athletes age 18-20 to benefit from a more even playing field, compared to the potential contrasts in experience and physical development faced within the senior ranks.

Over 30 nations have dispatched junior representatives to the World Championships in Bahrain, set to play out from 11-18 November. The Senior World Championships will be taking place concurrently, featuring over 50 nations and more than 250 athletes including 7 fighting Irish.

Of the 4 Juniors selected by IMMAA, 19-year-old men’s lightweight Patrick Lehane returns for a second shot at the unique, international tournament. The Battlezone, Clan Wars and Cage Legacy veteran of SBG Cork achieved bronze in the Junior European Open after a split-decision loss to Russia’s Zubair Gadzhiev.

Athletes are unable to contest senior and junior tournaments within the same week, but no restrictions are placed on alternating between junior and senior participation from one marquee event to another prior to turning 21.

This has provided an opportunity for one of Ireland’s most experienced representatives, men’s featherweight Alexander O’Sullivan. The 20-year-old prominent domestic contender is a veteran of 19 amateur bouts fighting out of C-MAC MMA in Dublin and previously earned a bronze medal at the 2016 IMMAF European Open, prior to the introduction of junior ranks, besting elder rivals from the USA and Romania before coming up short on the semi-final scorecards to Bulgaria’s two-time IMMAF European champion and former world silver medalist, Ferdun Osmanov.

SBG Charlestown product, Ger Harris, steps on to the IMMAF-WMMAA platform and will test his ability under the tournament format for the first time, as one of the competition’s most exciting newcomers. Undefeated on the Irish and UK circuit, Harris has turned heads with four successive and imposing stoppage wins, including three submissions and a knockout.

Showcasing explosiveness and agility, Trevor Makengo, also of C-MAC MMA, possesses great potential as he continues to mature as a mixed martial artist. At age 19, the fiery heavyweight displayed fierce passion in winning the European Open title and will encounter further international challenges in his pursuit of the gold in Bahrain.

Picture: Trevor Makengo celebrates his European Open triumph

After long time senior heavyweight ruler Irman Smajic announced his transition to a professional career this year, the 2018 World Championships are set to crown an all new heavyweight leader, and Makengo could be one to challenge for the crown in coming years.

Competing under Ulster’s Amateur MMA Association, Northern Ireland will be represented in the junior championships by 20-year-old bantamweight Jack Corr, another experienced veteran of the international platform having competed at three European Open events in addition to last year’s World Championships.

Following Ireland’s success at the European Open, the 2018 Worlds will be an intense challenge as even more standout national teams enter the Junior fold including the likes of France, Canada, Russia and Kazakhstan.