The Bahamas came away with two silver medals and a bronze at the recently completed International Mixed Martial Arts Federation’s (IMMAF) Pan American Open Championships. The inaugural event was held at the Kendal G.L. Isaacs National Gymnasium this past weekend.
Action in the cage began on Thursday and ended on Saturday. The Bahamas was one of 11 countries to participate. A total of eight countries, including The Bahamas, was in action on Saturday looking to secure gold medals.
Marcel Amann and Christian Miller were the silver medalists for The Bahamas in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions respectively. The bronze medalist for The Bahamas was Dijonnaise Brown, competing in the featherweight division.
Kyazi Smith (bantamweight), McNeil Newton (lightweight), Camaron Louis (welterweight) and Khari Woods (middleweight) were the other Bahamian fighters in the tournament.
Bahamas Martial Arts Federation and Empire Mixed Martial Arts Association President Dr. Kent Bazard said he was satisfied, but knows the fighters can perform better.
“We know that our performance can improve. For most of those guys, this is their first experience getting into a cage and fighting. We absolutely know that we can do better,” he said. “It takes a lot of preparation and work to get into a nine-minute fight. We have challenges that some of these countries don’t have. These guys have jobs and families, so they have to find the time to put in the training that they need. There is also the challenge of location. We had a location for a while but now we don’t have one. We have been training at different centers. We made it work and we came together, and we are looking forward to hosting trials in January. I have no doubt that we will continue to improve.”
Mexico walked away as the overall winner of the championships with 10 medals – five gold, three silver and two bronze. The Bahamas came into the event as one of the underdogs, going up against countries with more experienced fighters. France and the Czech Republic were two of the more established nations that were represented at the championships.
Miller fought in the final of the light heavyweight division, going up against Trinidad and Tobago’s Lashawn Sladden. Sladden knocked out Miller at the 2:20 mark of the second round.
Amann fought in the final of the heavyweight division against Mexico’s Johnathan Muamba. The Mexican ended the fight with seven seconds remaining in the first round, finishing off Amann with a knockout.
In Amann’s semifinal match, he took care of Mexico’s Victor Diaz.
In attendance at the championships was the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the IMMAF, Densign White.
“The level of competition was very high. This is the first Pan Am Championships and it was like ‘let’s make it happen and see what kind of turnout we get, put that stake in the ground and build on it as we did with other competitions in other continents’. The Pan American region is quite important. There are big MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) nations like the United States and Mexico. What Mexico has done here was very impressive. They had a big contingent and were very strong. Trinidad did well, and The Bahamas picked up medals. This is an attractive location and that is a plus – to make some of the teams want to come to The Bahamas. We will definitely be looking at coming back here again for future Pan Am Championships,” White said.
He added that he and his team will do some evaluations to see where they can go from here in regard to the championships. Bazard gave his input on what he saw from the fighters over the three days of the championships.
“There was technical fighting that was seen over the past few days. We had some high level coaches who were down here. We had a national wrestling coach from Canada, and Mexico had a few national boxing coaches. Mexico was a well-rounded team – they had very good stand-up skills and grappling skills,” Bazard said.
Looking forward to next year’s event, Bazard said that The Bahamas’ team will have heart and skills. He believes Bahamian athletes need to put more time into training and increase their stamina. Bazard hopes to have a bigger team, inclusive of female fighters, for next year’s competition. He said multiple fight disciplines came together in training for The Bahamas’ team. He said boxing, judo, jujitsu and Empire mixed martial arts were all involved in the process.
Bazard thanked the Ministry of Youth, Sports, and Culture, the National Sports Authority (NSA) for assisting in the staging of the event, and the Bahamian public who came out and supported the event.
MMA is one of the world’s fastest growing sporting disciplines. The U.S. based Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has grown in leaps and bounds over the years.
Education: College of the Bahamas, BA Media Journalism