Team Lebanon Impress at the 2014 IMMAF World Championship

Photo credit: ArabsMMA.com

After more than a week of departure by the Lebanese National Mixed Martial Arts team to Las Vegas, Nevada, in participation of the first ever IMMAF World Championship, the team and squad finally make their way back to Lebanon after having had one of the most memorable and successful experiences in Lebanese MMA history.

The Lebanese Mixed Martial Arts Federation (LMMAF) headed by Mr. Khalil Nassour and Hassan Jezzine, sponsored the national team for participation. Athletes from different weight classes had participated in a local event that would make them eligible to be part of the national team and the coming IMMAF tournament in Las Vegas sponsored by the UFC. The fighters that made the team were: Joeshwa Mortada at 70 KGs, Richard Saliba at 77 KGs, Imad Hoayek at 84 KGs, Ricardo Bachir at 94 KGs, Mohamed Yakzan at 120 KGs in addition to Rachel Abou Abdullah at 52 KGs.

The coach squad consisted of former wrestling national team coach Dr. Ali Hemadeh (Triumph MMA head coach), Wissam Abi Nader (Tristar Gym Lebanon head coach), Elie Saade (Gladiators MMA head coach), Mikel Amer (Knockout Academy head coach) and Hassan Jezzine (LMMAF president).

It is important to note that Wissam Abi Nader was invited to take part in judging, consulting and supervising at the event as part of the IMMAF group. The invitation was gladly accepted much to the honor and future development of Lebanese MMA.

Not much was expected from the Lebanese fighters, considering that MMA is a relatively new sport in the area. However, the results delivered are truly something to be proud of.

Richard-Saliba-(With-a-jab-to-the-face)

Richard Saliba with a jab to the face

In day one, Imad Hoayek fought against a highly competitive MMA fighter from Sweden, Mohamed Yakzan had a heavyweight bout against a brown-belt BJJ (Brazilian Jujitsu) athlete from America, Richard Saliba was set to fight an excellent grappler from Romania and Rachel Abou Abdullah against a wrestler from Uzbekistan.

After a tough first round, Hoayek managed to better the Swedish by way of knock out in the middle of the second round, much to the surprise of the attendance and to the surprise of the Swedish favorite himself. Yakzan, being relatively new to MMA, did much more than expected and showed that hard work does pay off after giving the brown-belt American a fight to remember, but losing in the second round.

Richard Saliba went in the fight very promisingly, shocking his Romanian opponent with his striking skills. However, a small mistake as this, which happens a lot of the time, was very costly in MMA. Saliba got caught in a guillotine choke submission hold after attempting to wrestle the Romanian to the floor. Saliba had great heart and refused to tap forcing the referee who had no choice, but to stop the fight. Rachel went on to an automatic win after her opponent failed to show for her medical check-up and testing, making her a finalist and guaranteed to compete in the UFC expo.

In day two of the tournament, Joeshwa Mortada had a fight against a well-rounded Italian fighter and Ricardo Bachir fought a tough opponent from Poland. After a very close fight that lasted three rounds, Mortada was able to win via judge’s decision. On the other hand, Ricardo Bachir’s three round war didn’t have similar results. Bachir fought one of the toughest opponents in the tournament with a broken hand, leaving an impression, but falling short of victory.

In day three, Imad Hoayek and Joeshwa Mortada had their quarter final fights against America and England respectively. Both fighters fought the entire three rounds more than impressively, making it all the way to a judge’s decision. It was one of the closest decisions in the tournament that eliminated both these Lebanese athletes after a great show of potential and skill.

Imad Hoayek with the Lebanese flag

Imad Hoayek with the Lebanese flag

On the last day of the tournament, Rachel Abou Abdullah was the only one standing to represent Lebanon at the UFC expo. Rachel fought a German judo black belt with an impressive MMA amateur record. The bout ended via first round submission for the much more experienced German, but the Lebanese flag was held high at the expo for the entire world to know of the Lebanese presence and the quality of fighters present in Lebanon.

Rachel Abou Abdallah

Rachel Abou Abdallah

Excellent job to all the fighters! Way to represent!