Australia has taken home three medals, including a gold, from the 2022 International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) World Championships in Serbia.
Australia sent 14 athletes over 12 weight classes to compete in the amateur tournaments earlier this month, with three athletes bringing back bronze, silver, and gold medals.
Junior light heavyweight Ismail Elcheikh won bronze in his division after scoring a TKO in his first bout against Bulgarian athlete Georgi Petrov, then losing a split decision in the semi-final to Bahrain’s Gadzhi Gadzhiev and junior heavyweight competitor Samir Ali won a silver medal after being submitted in the final of the tournament by Uzbekistan’s Asrorbek Anvarjonov.
Senior female flyweight competitor Faine Mesquita made Australian history when she took home the gold medal after four straight victories. Mesquita is the first Australian athlete to win gold at the IMMAF world championships.
‘It’s so rewarding…I’m still finding the words to describe it, it’s a bit overwhelming to be honest.’ Mesquita said.
Mesquita made her amateur MMA debut at last year’s IMMAF world championships, where she lost via armbar in her first bout, dislocating her elbow and damaging ligaments in her arm in the process.
Being injured in her debut fight was a large hurdle to overcome, said Mesquita.
‘In the beginning I didn’t know what to think, I didn’t know what recovery would be. I had many questions like “should I do this again? Am I going to be able to fight again in the first place? Will this ever be the same?”
‘But after three months or so of doing physio every day and training and going back to the gym slowly, going back to MMA slowly, I was like “Of course I’m going to keep doing this, I love doing this.”
Winning gold at the world championships was by no means an easy feat, with Mesquita facing both the European champion and last year’s world champion in back to back fights.
‘I had a really tough bracket. I versed the champion from last year who was on a 10-0 streak, then the European champ as well. I had tough matches.’
Despite facing stiff competition, Mesquita was determined to keep focussed during her fights.
‘I wasn’t intimidated. Everyone has gaps and I was confident in my game plan.’
This confidence got Mesquita to the finals of the tournament, where she finished her opponent, Spanish fighter Raquel Gonzales Garcia, via TKO at the last second of the 2nd.
‘Finishing with a TKO. It couldn’t be any better than this. It was such a reward…it’s almost too perfect, we have all this full circle…from questioning if I should still be doing MMA, if it’s too late, am I too old, and then to train so, so hard and I was able to prove all the doubts I had were wrong.’
Looking ahead in her MMA career, Mesquita said the jump to the pro circuit is next on the list.
‘I do wanna turn pro. I think I already proved myself against the best…I think the next step for me is definitely going pro and seeing what I can do there. No shin pads, elbows from close distance. It’s going to be really fun.’