The English Youth Squad is celebrating after a hugely successful outing at the 2022 IMMAF Youth World Championships. The team won eight medals – the biggest ever tally for an EMMAA squad.
Seventeen athletes travelled to Abu Dhabi to test their skills against the best young mixed martial artists in the world. The squad of 12-17-year-olds finished 6th out of the 42 countries taking part.
Coach Connor Halliday said:
“As a coach, I couldn’t be happier with how well the entire team did at the Youth World Championships. Some of the performances were amazing to watch and I think it’s safe to say the future of UK MMA is in good hands with these kids.”
IMMAF competitions take place over multiple days and follow the format of a knock-out tournament. On the first day of the competition, the English team got off to a flying start with three medals in the Youth C Division (12-13 years old). Shea Williams and Ryley McGrath-O’Toole dominated their way to gold, and Finley Turley won bronze after four tough matches. Ryley’s Mum, Nicola McGrath, said:
“He trains consistently all year round around 6 days a week but has trained really hard for this and is delighted that he managed to win all 5 of his fights to get the gold. The whole experience has been amazing getting to fight competitors from all over the world and having the chance to showcase his skills at this level. Can’t wait for next year!”
Two more medals came on day 2 of the competition. Bradley McDonough won gold and Macie Gaffney won bronze. Head Youth Coach Mark Spencer commented on their performances:
“Bradley had an amazing showing, beating all of his opponents to become World Champion. Macie had a Fantastic arm-bar finish to secure her place on the podium.”
On day 3, England only had one athlete in the cage. Tyler Derbyshire didn’t quite manage a podium spot, however, he did manage to secure victories over Israel and Ukraine. In a fight he was winning, Tyler was unlucky to be caught in a rear-naked choke, narrowly missing out on bronze.
Three more medals were won on day 4. Jack Grundy, Stan Baglee and Sophie Price all won bronze in their respective divisions. Stan’s Dad, Dom Baglee, commented:
“With the expertise of the coaches and the encouragement of the squad – mission accomplished… White hot, fierce competition done in good spirit and underpinned with unbreakable camaraderie. A brilliant, bizarre and sometimes surreal week.”
Although eight medals were won over the four days, 17 English athletes travelled to Abu Dhabi. As with all competition, not everyone comes away with a win. Aisha Barwick didn’t get the result she was hoping for but reflected:
“Now that I know what to expect and the level of the fighters I think I could return feeling more confident and hopefully do better. It was an amazing experience meeting new friends from around the world who are now hopefully life-long Instagram friends. To represent England on a big stage was exciting and unbelievable.”
EMMAA President Marc Goddard passed on his congratulations to the squad:
“On behalf of the entire EMMAA board & set-up, I would like to firstly congratulate the medal winners AND all the participants of Team England who travelled to the UAE and put it all on the line.
My respect & admiration for these kids is through the roof. They are literally mixing it with the best in the world at their respective age & weight.”
EMMAA Head Youth Coach, Mark Spencer, commented on the event as a whole:
“It is no accident what the team have achieved, we have a wealth of talented athletes in England. Marie and I invested a huge amount of time into our selection process, supporting the team over the last year and arranging elite training from some of England’s best fighters and coaches. But it is the athlete’s coaches who need to be applauded. Their work in preparing these athletes on a daily basis is vital.”
And Marie Spencer, Youth Team Manager, said:
“I couldn’t be prouder of every single one of our athletes. They have done amazing and all really enjoyed the experience. To come away with 3 golds and 5 bronze is brilliant. I think we’ve really shown the level of talent in England. The coaches and parents have been fantastic too. It’s been a real team effort.”
After such a successful outing at the 2022 IMMAF Youth World Championships, the future is bright indeed for English mixed martial arts. The youth team showed skill, courage and camaraderie, winning the most medals ever for an EMMAA team.