Inna Leniu has already made her mark on the MMA scene when she was crowned the GAMMA World Champion in Amsterdam last year and proudly raised the Samoan flag in doing so. The time around she is chasing continental glory and is perhaps looking forward to the upcoming Oceania Championships more than most. 

Born in New Zealand, raised in Malie in Samoa, moving to Kahuka Hawaii, and then relocating to Brisbane in Australia, she is bound to receive a warm welcome in Auckland as she returns to her country of birth in her attempt to win more medals and follow in the footsteps of fellow Samoan combat sport stars, former professional boxer David Tua and legendary kickboxer and martial artist Mark Hunt.

Leniu came to MMA as an adult, which already sets her apart from many others in the sport, “My martial arts background started 8 or 9 years ago. I discovered martial arts during a time when I needed direction and to find real self-worth and so I joined a gym and naturally went from kickboxing to MMA.”

Watch Inna Leniu compete against Tunisian Nourhen Sahraoui in Striking MMA under the +72.6KG weight category.

Winning the World title in Amsterdam has been instrumental for her in helping to bring a bigger team for these continental championships. The martial arts community is growing in Samoa, there is more attention, and the result is the ability to encourage more ladies to take part. “I am so grateful that this opportunity is here for our people because no other place in the world has MMA athletes representing Samoa. I know this event will help Samoan fighters because of its global reach. I am thankful to those who have gone before us as it has brought attention to our sport in the southern hemisphere.”

Going into a continental championship as a world champion gives you a natural target on your back, but Inna sees this whole event as an opportunity, “Right now I am focusing on ensuring our team are all well-equipped and ready. My expectation of this event is growth. More growth within the GAMMA family and the MMA community in Oceania. We don’t come to play; we have high quality fighters who possess great athleticism and power. I know our team will do well, we have well established fighters who are still young, raw, and hungry for success.”

Having already achieved success in the sport, Leniu is determined to nurture the next generation, “I think we are just getting started with the sport in Oceania. GAMMA is here to really help provide a bigger breeding ground for the grassroots fighters and work with them early, it’s exciting. I want to keep building our Samoa team and let them compete in a controlled environment.”

Despite her selfless approach to working with her fellow athletes, her competitive edge should not be underestimated, “I fight to prove to myself that I can always be better, to be challenged and to be a better human by always growing through fighting. I take my character and integrity very seriously and it is always important to be organised and surround yourself with mature and like-minded people.”

Wise words from the World Champion. Don’t miss the GAMMA Oceania Championships to follow the success of Inna and her fellow Samoans.

Malo lava! Faafetai.

(Thumbs up! Thank you)