IFMA 2017 muaythai world championships is held in Minsk, Belarus
Vitaly Gurkov (l) of Belarus victorious over Ekkaphan Somboonsab (r) of Thailand in the 75 kg final at IFMA muaythai world championships 2016 in Jonkoping, Sweden

IFMA world championships 2017 is held from May 3 to May 13 in Minsk, Belarus.

The sport of Muay Thai received a provisional recognition as Olympic sport in December 2016. As a result, the next month’s IFMA world championships in Minsk is the first time in history when the athletes compete as a part of the Olympic family. Up to 100 countries are expected to travel to the historic city. National teams from as far away as America, Australia, Peru and South Africa join the roster.

Moreover, alongside the actual muaythai bouts, the program comprises the cultural events, including dance and music. The best performers of Wai Khru [the ritual the fighter executes before each bout] will traditionally receive the prizes. In addition, the event is a final contest where the athletes have a chance to earn the qualification to partake in The World Games in Wroclaw in July.

FIGHTMAG is on a journey with four related parties at IFMA 2017

The list of the interlocutors includes the official on behalf of the International Federation of Muaythai Amateur (IFMA) and the authentic representative of the “Art of Eight Limbs”. As well, the renowned athlete out of the country-host of the upcoming event, and the face of Team Australia that is a prominent member of the world muaythai family.

The representative of IFMA, which is the governing body for the event, Stephan Fox outlines the importance of the highly anticipated happening. He continues the endeavor of “Muaythai towards Olympics” started over fifteen years ago. In addition to the provisional status of Muaythai as the Olympic sport, Belarus Kick Boxing and Muay Thai Federation (BKBMTF), has also been recognized by the country’s National Olympic Committee.

“IFMA federations share the honor and responsibility of hosting the World Championships between them. This is the first time the huge event travels to the beautiful city of Minsk,” says IFMA general secretary Stephan Fox.

“Belarus won a tight competition to host the tournament. They are certainly following through on their plans for an exciting event.”

“Muaythai is a well-respected sport in Belarus. In March the National Federation was recognized by the Belarus National Olympic Committee.”

“Belarus athletes are no strangers to the muaythai ring with many well-known names forming the national team. Large crowds are expected at the sports-hall [at IFMA 2017 event] with big names from the muaythai world including local heroes Andrei Kulebin and Alena Liashkevich competing.”

Notable Thai fighter Suppachai Superbon out of the Buakaw Banchamek Gym is a part of Team Thailand. The 71 kg competitor won Gold last year in Jonkoping, as well as took all in Bangkok a year earlier.

When asked why the professional takes part in the amateur contest, he says that “it is a pride to represent the nation, and it is also good money”. In addition a former two-time champion of Thailand outlined that these days, as a professional, he predominantly competes in kickboxing.

Belarus is the Top 3 countries in Muay Thai

Multiple muaythai world champion, Belarusian Vitaly Gurkov is honored that his homeland accommodates this year’s event. He says his country is a host of various competitions. As well, it has all necessary platforms to organize a big sporting gala.

“It is very important that the event is held here [in Belarus]. Belarus is the Top 3 countries in muaythai,” says Gurkov. “It is honorable, the championship is held with us. Muaythai is well-developed in Belarus, it has a lot of fans.”

“In general, sport is well-supported in our country. There are numerous international competitions in different sports. We have good sports grounds and the conditions for such events at the highest level.”

Reflecting on his experience, the 2017 Gold-medalist Vitaly Gurkov says that “each IFMA [event] leaves pleasant emotions. Each is special in its own way.”

“This is a real holiday for muaythai devotees. Live action and communication with athletes from around the world. We fight each other, laugh and share stories of how it [muaythai] develops every year in different parts of the Planet.”

Opposite to Thailand and Belarus, where the governmental institutions support its athletes financially, the muaythai fighters out of Australia seek the funding themselves. Although they are said to enjoy representing the “Gold and Green”.

“I enjoyed IFMA, being surrounded by so many muaythai enthusiasts, talent and culture,” talks her experience the two-time bronze medalist Yolanda Schmidt of Team Australia. “Some lose, some win medals. I think it’s about gauging your skills against the talented people from around the world.”

“Some of the medalists I’ve never heard of. However if you’re going to go all the way to IFMA, self funded, then I’d say it’s important to [win a] medal. As I would want to do my country proud for all the money I put in, thanks to support of others.”

Muay Thai

Muay Thai is a national sport of Thailand with its history traced to the middle of the 16th century. IFMA is today’s largest organization to govern the Amateur sector of Muaythai by the format of Olympic Boxing. Professional Muaythai outside Thailand is principally regarded as one of the disciplines (styles) of Kickboxing.

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