Mixed Martial Arts is becoming a worldwide phenomenon. Since UFC 1 took place in 1993, the sport has slowly spread to all corners of the world. One of those countries finally coming into the fray with a strong presence is Israel. Haim Gozali is known as “the godfather” of Israeli MMA, being the country’s only star from the last generation of MMA. The new wave of MMA has brought along a strong stable of Israeli fighters including Haim’s son, Aviv, along with guys like Raz Bring and Simon Smotrisky. The women’s division of MMA, however, for Israel is just now on the rise. Who will join Olga Rubin and push women’s MMA in Israel to the next heights? Enter multi-time world Muay Thai champion, Nili Block.
Introduction to Combat Sports
Born in the United States, Block moved to Israel at the age of two along with her parents and siblings where they still live in Beit Shemesh. “I started Muay Thai because of my mom. She was volunteering at the Israeli borderline. Looking for a self-defense class for herself, she found Beny [Cogan] in Jerusalem, which where we lived was a one-hour bus ride away,” Block told MyMMANews. “I was the athletic one of my five siblings and so she took me along. I was 10 and so it just became a regular routine for me.”
Muay Thai and Kickboxing Domination
In 2012, at 17 years of age, Block won her first of six world championships, winning the flyweight world championship at the 10th Amateur/Pro-Am Muay Thai Championships in Bangkok, Thailand. Only at the age of 25, Block has already accomplished more than most in a lifetime in kickboxing and Muay Thai. “My main background is Muay Thai (15 years), being a 4-time world and 4-time European champion in IFMA [International Federation of Muay Thai-Amateur.] In addition to that, I have competed in WAKO [World Association of Kickboxing Organizations], taking gold in the 2015 world championship, and conquering, at the time, 6-time world champion Alena Muratuva. 2019 I fought for the ISKA kickboxing belt beating Ielo Page in Paris,” said Block.
The Difficult Transition
Mixed martial arts is just that, MIXED. More likely than not a specialist in one art and not training in the others will not succeed in MMA. Block has had the inspiration to enter MMA but knew the time was not right and it would take hard training in the other disciplines of combat sports to succeed as she did in Muay Thai and kickboxing. As with many female fighters from across the world, there is one name that brought MMA to the forefront for them.
“Back in the day when Ronda Rousey was making history for women in the UFC, it sparked my vision. And many others were saying “oo you should do MMA..”. But making the transition from a single discipline isn’t as easy as it seems.. and I was only in the beginning of my career, so yes it was always in the back of my head, and I knew that it will happen. 2018 I started wrestling with Hànoch Rahamin, Israel’s 7-time national champion. But not in any rush, going a few times a week, while still focusing on Muay Thai and staying on top,’ stated Block.
A Bright Future In MMA
It should not be a surprise one of her favorite fighters and the fighter she thinks she’ll emulate the most is the UFC middleweight champion. “My favorite fighter would have to be Israel Adesanya. His flow and movement brought from kickboxing is what we hope to imitate in my fights,” stated Block. At 25 years old, Block has plenty of time to get into a cage and pick up experience, which is the cure to a lot of ailments. In large part to social media, MMA is spreading worldwide at a massive rate. In less time than we know, Block will be a name in the MMA world.
I am a life-long MMA fan who has been a fan since UFC 1. I was born in Illinois but raised in South Louisiana, home of many great mixed martial artists. I started martial arts at the age of 4 and continued into my adult years where I served nearly 10 years in law enforcement. I feel my job is to convey the stories of the MMA fighters we enjoy to watch and share their stories with the world.
Follow me on Twitter @LAknockoutMMA