by Dane McGuire
UFC veteran Dan Henderson is working with the United States Fight League to field the country’s national youth championship. The event will result in a team set to compete under the IMMAF at its world championship.
The USFL is a non-profit regulatory organization that fosters safe pankration (modified MMA) competition for youth, military and the public safety community according to the organization’s Facebook page.
Competition is open to ages 8-17, but world championship competition is open to those age 12 and up.
The U.S. National’s will take place at Dan Henderson’s Athletic Training Centre in Temecula, California. The two finalists in each weight class will have the first refusal on representing Team USA in the Abu Dhabi tournament, which is tentatively set for the first week in August.
California state rules require headgear for every bout and no headshots are allowed. The event is open to fans for $20. It’s also being filmed by television network, A&E.
USFL President Jon Frank told IMMAF.org:
“We hold an open and transparent qualifier so getting the word out is key in the United States. We have licensed youth fighters from more than half the states, yet the majority of youth MMA coaches are still not aware of youth development and progression opportunities in MMA.
It’s now clear that the experience and bonds formed at the National and World Championships are irreplaceable.”
“The skill level of these kids continues to grow at an execrated pace with each major competition. These kids are the final pioneers in solidifying MMA as a respected sport by those outside the industry. With that said, we still need those within the industry to recognise that youth are the roots of their final product and these roots only get stronger with their support.”
In 2021, 331 competitors from 23 different countries taking part, the nation vs. nation event featured three tournaments comprising Youth A (16 – 17 yrs.), Youth B (14 – 15 yrs.) and Youth C (12 – 13 yrs.) categories and a total of 438 bouts over 28 hours of matches.
Ukraine led the way in all three categories to a total of 52 medals, followed by Russia with a total of 43. The U.S. came in third place with 17 medals.