The GAMMA European MMA Championships 2021 kicked off in style today at the Palace of Sports in Kyiv, Ukraine.
A lively Opening Ceremony got things started, with entertainment provided by Ukrainian dance troupe the Red Foxes and singer INKA, vocal trainer of the Ukrainian X Factor.
A Parade of Nations featured all the athletes from the 14 participating countries: Azerbaijan, Belarus, Czech Republic, France, Georgia, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Moldova, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Turkey, and Ukraine.
“We are very glad that we can give this platform to our athletes to be able to compete and equally as happy to be able to meet our friends again and share our common passion,” said GAMMA President Alexander Engelhardt. “Ukraine has a strong history and future in mixed martial arts. We met with the Ukrainian Minister of Youth and Sport to discuss this, not only for the athletes who compete at the highest level but about GAMMA and the grassroots and inclusivity so that everyone can be included in this great sport.”
People’s Deputy of Ukraine Liudmyla Marchenko addressed the athletes: “I would like to wish you good luck and hope that you enjoy this amazing tournament … You are all already winners because you are here today. I wish you to gain one more victory in your development today. Great respect to all the people who contributed to the organisation of these Championships.”
Welcome speeches were also delivered by President of the Ukrainian Federation of MMA (UF-MMA) Volodymyr Teslia; GAMMA Vice President Carlo Di Blasi; President of the Boxing Federation of Ukraine Volodymyr Prodyvus; and UF-MMA Vice President Denys Perch.
The first day of bouts saw athletes competing concurrently in three rings. Hosts Ukraine got into the win column first when Anatolii Zhurakivskyi defeated Slovakia’s Alex Surik with a second-round stoppage in the -70.3 kg/-155 lbs Elite Men’s MMA division.
“It felt great to win because it was a big responsibility as it’s the first time to have the European Championships here on the big stage and in the Ukraine. I am very happy to be the first winner, it’s a big honour for me,” said Zhurakivskyi. “I am glad to be a part of these Championships – I am really enjoying my experience here.”
Zhurakivskyi was back in the ring a few hours later competing in his second match of the day, this time overpowering Azerbaijan’s Turan Ahmadov in the quarterfinals.
France’s Florian Rousseau, who trailed from the start of his -70.3 kg/-155 lbs Elite Men’s MMA bout, surprised Turkish opponent Rinat Rizman with a second-round chokehold to score his country’s maiden victory at these Championships.
“It’s been four years that I didn’t fight so it’s a good recovery,” said Rousseau. “The Championships are really well-organised. I was already in Singapore (for the GAMMA World Championships 2019) as a coach and now here as a fighter, and we are very satisfied with everything.”
French compatriot Alix “La Stache” Jeanguillaume, meanwhile, improved to an impressive 13-0 record in MMA and Kenpo bouts (including 3 gold medals) this year, after defeating Adam Janca of the Czech Republic in the -77.1 kg/-170 lbs Elite Men’s MMA division.
For more on the first day of competition and other European Championships information, click here.
Action on Day 2 tomorrow will include athletes competing in Striking MMA, a new discipline introduced by GAMMA that prohibits ground fighting. As such, it is considered the perfect gateway into traditional MMA for athletes looking to transition from purely striking styles such as boxing, kickboxing and muaythai.
The finals are scheduled for 9 November, where medals will be awarded in 16 weight categories (9 for men and 7 for women).