The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) is the international governing body for amateur MMA, overseeing the growth and regulation of the flourishing sport. The organisation holds both continental and world wide championships for both senior and junior competitors, with its showpiece ‘IMMAF World Championships’ being held every year most recently from Bahrain.
Amateur success in a sport doesn’t always translate to the pro game, with numerous examples from the boxing world supporting this narrative. This is no different in MMA, with the slightly modified rules meaning countless promising amateurs have failed to reach the heights many expected of them.
While we are yet to see a former IMMAF World Champion win a major title in the pro ranks, here’s ten who’ve enjoyed notable success since turning over and might just be on the way to doing so.
10. Gamzat Magomedov (5-1)
The winner of the IMMAF bantamweight world crown in 2017, Magomedov has made a solid start to his professional career finding a home with Brave CF. The Russian, now fighting out of Muharraq, Bahrain under the stewardship of Brave CF champion Eldar Eldarov is currently 3-1 with the promotion, with his only loss coming at the hands of the vastly more experienced current UFC flyweight JP Buys. Not afraid to jump in there with opponents of admirable pedigree, Magomedov has already faced opponents with experience fighting for major promotions in Bellator and ONE Championship, and scored an impressive KO victory in his last outing against well respected Filipino prospect Harold Banario.
9. Manon Fiorot (4-1)
Discovering MMA late after first enjoying successful spells in both karate and kickboxing (winning national titles in both), Manon Fiorot enjoyed a stellar 2017, first winning silver at the IMMAF European Championships, and then going one better at the World’s with a win over Chamia Chabbi in the final. A tough pro debut against current Bellator contender Leah McCourt aside, the French 30 year old has been flawless for both EFC and now UAE Warriors. Winning ‘The Fighter Season Two’ earnt her a shot at Amanda Lino’s EFC flyweight title, winning a clear unanimous decision in December of 2019. Since then she has signed for UAE Warriors, where she has won back to back bouts and will now challenge Gabriela Campo for the vacant UAE Warriors flyweight title on Friday the 27th of November. Another win should see the sports premier promotions scrambling for her signature.
8. Abdul Hussein (7-1)
A truly inspiring story, Hussein or ‘ABBA’ as he’s affectionately known, defied the odds to become the first refugee to claim gold at the amateur world championships. Born in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon, Hussein moved to Finland at a young age where he followed his brother into MMA, winning European gold in 2015 and World gold a year later (becoming the youngest fighter to ever do so at just 18), leaving the amateur code with a perfect 8-0 record. After stopping his first four professional opponents in the Cage promotion, he signed for Brave CF where he overcame his first pro loss to Nawras Abzakh and currently sits on a three fight win streak. Entering the Brave flyweight grand prix this year but being forced out through illness, it won’t be long before the 23 year old has his hands on gold.
7. Shoaib Yousaf (7-2)
England’s first ever amateur world champion, Shoaib Yousaf certainly has a very bright future in the sport. Retiring from the amateurs with a perfect 11-0 record, ‘The Assassin’ turned pro with ACA (then ACB) and enjoyed a 4-1 run with the company, losing his undefeated record to rising English prospect Jordan Vucenic at ACB 70. Spending some time developing on the British regional scene, it wasn’t long before the hotbed of IMMAF talent came calling, and he signed with Brave, beating the previously undefeated Hassan Talal in his debut. His last outing saw him face the toughest test of his young career, main eventing his first card opposite Mochamed Machaev, losing a unanimous decision to the undefeated Austrian. Training for his last fight at the Amir Khan Academy with the man himself, the 25 year old will be looking to bounce back from his second career loss and add to his six career finishes in the process.
6. Frans Mlambo (9-5)
Born in South Africa but fighting out of Ireland, Mlambo became the great fighting nations first amateur world champion, winning featherweight gold in 2015 with a series of imposing performances culminating in a win over Joel Moya in the gold medal match. Mlambo faced a particularly tough schedule to begin his professional career, facing the likes of Stephen Loman, Chang Xin Fu and Luke Ord in his first four fights. Settling down with three wins for Brave brought him a shot at the bantamweight title in a rematch with Loman, again losing via decision. Signing with Bellator in 2019, ‘The Black Mamba’ is currently 3-1 with wins over the likes of Dominique Wooding and Cory Tait. A training partner of little known Irishman Conor McGregor, Mlambo has already been in some fun fights and still may have his best years ahead of him at only 29.
5. Leah McCourt (4-1)
Another European and World IMMAF champion, Leah McCourt can also boast a black belt in judo and a brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, even winning an IBJJF European gold medal in 2018. McCourt was actually stopped in her professional debut by two time Olympian Rizlen Zouak and only just did enough to beat fellow IMMAF world champion Manon Fiorot in her second bout, but since then has improved with every fight. Being one of a number of beneficiaries of Bellator’s European and particularly Irish expansion, she won two bouts in her native country in 2019, before headlining the iconic 3Arena in February of this year, claiming a points win over tough German Judith Ruis.’The Curse’ made history that night by becoming the first female to headline a Bellator Europe card and it looks very much like the company have unearthed yet another Irish star who could one day rise to the top of the division. Clearly held in very high esteem by Bellator, don’t be shocked to see the 28 year old keep proving people wrong while blazing a trail for Irish women’s MMA.
4. Jose Torres (9-1-1)
The first two time IMMAF champion, Torres claimed the bantamweight gold medal at the 2014 championships and then again a year later to cement his place as one of the greatest amateurs to ever do it. The American raced to 7-0 with all his fights taking place for Titan FC, winning both the flyweight and bantamweight titles before inevitably signing for the UFC. However, after beating Jared Brooks with ground and pound and then losing to future title challenger Alex Perez, ‘Shorty’ was cut from the promotion as the company sort to disband its flyweight division. He signed with Brave CF, beating hot prospect and current ranked UFC flyweight contender Amir Albazi in his debut and fought to a draw with fellow countryman Sean Santella in the first round of the Brave flyweight tournament in September. With his next fight likely to be a rematch with Santella, keep your eye on this accomplished flyweight who still has a lot to achieve and plenty of time to do so.
3. Alessio Di Chirico (12-5)
Italy’s Alessio Di Chirico has been in the UFC since 2016 and has amassed a 3-5 record with the worlds leading promotion. Winning his gold at the inaugural championships in 2014 in the light heavyweight division, Di Chirico put together nine wins without defeat on the European regional scene, finishing eight of those wins early (four KO’s and four submissions). While his UFC run hasn’t been as successful as he would’ve wished, there have been high points in decisions wins over Garreth McLellan and Julian Marquez, as well as a performance of the night KO over Oluwale Bamgbose. Among his five defeats only one man has been able to stop him (Eric Spicely via first round submission) and he’s shared invaluable rounds with the likes of Kevin Holland and Zak Cummings.
2. Brendan Allen (15-4)
Brendan Allen’s UFC career thus far has taught he’s a young man with a hell of a lot of potential, and at just 24 still has 6-8 years before he’s even in his physical prime. Even with a loss to Sean Strickland in his last bout, Allen was still able to rank fifth in ESPN’s 25 fighters under 25 list, and hasn’t really lost any shine following his first UFC loss. Prior to joining the promotion Allen was both a VF and LFA middleweight champion and endured some early lessons in losses to future UFC fighters Trevin Giles, Eryk Anders and Anthony Hernandez. A black belt in BJJ and with experience in both wrestling and boxing, Allen coasted to the IMMAF middleweight gold medal at just 19 years old in 2015, submitting every one of his opponents via rear naked choke. With already a wealth of experience at the top level under his belt, Brendan ‘All In’ Allen will be at the very least a top ten ranked contender in years to come, if he keeps developing and improving at his current rate he could be so much more.
1. Amanda Ribas (10-1)
To put it simply Amanda Ribas is one of the best women’s prospects in the whole sport, the shear ease she destroyed Paige VanZant at UFC 251 tells us that, but look beyond that win and you’ll see a fighter steaming towards a title shot. Ribas is at present 4-0 in the UFC with two stoppages and currently finds herself ranked #9 in the stacked women’s strawweight division, easily the strongest women’s division. And to think she lost three years of her career to a USADA anti doping case that she was eventually proven innocent in, the 27 year old could be even further along in her career development than she already is. Just 20 when she took home gold at the 2014 IMMAF world championships, she had been groomed for success since being a young child, with her father, Marcelo Ribas, being a prominent BJJ, Judo and Muay Thai teacher in their native Brazil. Her success to this point seems almost inevitable, how much further she can go is down to her.