Hosts Ukraine led the medal parade at the GAMMA European MMA Championships 2021 today, but it was Czech amateur Vojtech Garba who stole the show at the Palace of Sports in Kyiv, Ukraine.
Garba will return home as double European Champion – the only athlete at the tournament to do so – after winning gold in both the -93.0 kg/-205 lbs Elite Men’s MMA and Striking MMA finals.
The 25 year old, who hails from Frydek-Mistek in the Czech Republic, defeated Dmitri Ceacusta (MDA) by submission in the MMA final, and then returned to the ring to beat Alberto Blanco Marina (ESP) by survivor rule in the Striking MMA final.
“I’m not sure I really won the second fight because it was no contest, but anyway, I just wanted to fight as much as I could and that’s why I chose to enter the Striking MMA category, too,” said Garba. “These Championships have been great and it’s my first experience of a big tournament like this, so I am happy that I won. It is really important to have these European Championships as one day I want to see MMA on the Olympic Games programme.”
Team Czech enjoyed a strong showing at the European Championships, finishing the tournament with 5 gold, 2 silver and 4 bronze medals. That was good enough for second place overall behind runaway winners Ukraine (12 gold, 8 silver and 6 bronze).
All the medallists will receive higher seeds at the 2021 GAMMA World Championships scheduled for 7-11 December in Berlin.
In the heavyweight +93.0 kg/+205 lbs Elite Men’s MMA division, Stanislav Khmylkovskyi of the Ukraine defeated Iwo Baraniewski of Poland with a second-round TKO. Khmylkovskyi had been playing catch-up after losing the first round, and looked to be in trouble again in the second when Baraniewski brought the bout to the ground. But it was Khmylkovskyi who dictated the contest from his back, landing a series of punches to score the win.
The first athlete to be crowned 2021 European Champion was Liubov Deresh (UKR), who defeated compatriot Nadiia Ovchynnikova in the -52.2 kg/-115 lbs Elite Female MMA division. The 35-year-old strawweight made quick work of her opponent, taking Ovchynnikova to the ground early in the first round to set up a TKO in the first bout of the day.
Afterward, Ukrainian Federation of MMA (UF-MMA) President Volodymyr Teslia said he was delighted with how the tournament unfolded, not only for his team but all the athletes who participated.
“I was pleasantly surprised by the whole atmosphere here and by the level of the matches,” he said. “It’s been a great show with excellent contests from the first minute to the last.”
“It is very important for everyone that these Championships took place because it has been a tough situation with COVID and all the restrictions,” Teslia continued. “It was important to save the Championships and that they were organised well. For the Ukrainian Federation, it’s been a big step forward to help for the future and cultivate more talent. It’s been a win-win situation for everyone.”
In the tournament’s final bout, local favourite Dmytro Orlov saw his comeback bid fall just short in the -61.2 kg/-135 lbs Elite Men’s MMA division, losing a unanimous decision to deserved winner Borja Garcia Heres of Spain.
Fuelled by spirited performances like that from Garcia Heres, Team Spain also fared well at these Championships, finishing third with 2 gold, 3 silver and 3 bronze medals.
Leovigilda Gutierrez Lozada picked up her country’s first gold medal of the day, overpowering fellow Spaniard Sandra Fernandez Rivas for the title in the -61.2 kg/-135 lbs Elite Female Striking MMA division. Lozada also earned a silver medal later in the day after losing a split decision to Tetiana Liashuk (UKR) in the final of the -61.2 kg/-135 lbs Elite Female MMA division.
“Before the championships I said I wanted to see Spanish athletes win a medal in each category because it is very important for us to raise the level of MMA in Spain,” said Chinto Mordillo Morante, President of the Spanish MMA Association (AEMMA). “We are enjoying everything at these Championships and have to say thank you to all those who have participated and from the GAMMA family to make it possible. Everyone should be happy as this has been a very, very good tournament.”
Azerbaijan won its sole gold medal of the Championships when Fatali Talibov defeated Ukraine’s Roman Syrkin in the final of the -52.2 kg/-115 lbs Elite Men’s MMA division. Syrkin will not go home disappointed, however, having won gold earlier in the -52.2 kg/-115 lbs Elite Men’s Striking MMA category.
“It has been a tremendous European Championship here in Kyiv,” said GAMMA President Alexander Engelhardt. “We have seen a number of excellent matches across all weight categories and in the two disciplines – MMA and Striking MMA. With some fans being allowed into the stadium it helped with the atmosphere and you could see the positive impact that had on the Ukrainian athletes. I would like to thank the UF-MMA and its President Volodymyr Teslia as well as all those who have worked so hard to make this event happen so successfully.”
“After a small celebration tonight, our focus will shift immediately to the World Championships in Berlin next month, which I am sure will be another fantastic event for the global MMA community.”