The joy of seeing two Malaysian athletes earning podium finishes at the recent regional championship has spurred the Malaysian Mixed Martial Arts Association (MASMMAA) to start investing in youths.
Colleen Augustin and Brandon Tang won gold and bronze respectively in the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation- World Mixed Martial Arts Association Asian Open Championships 2019 in Bangkok last weekend.
Colleen defeated Kazakhstan’s Nurzhamal Sadykova in the women’s strawweight finals and became the first Malaysian gold medallist at the championship while Brandon earned the bronze in the men’s strawweight category after he lost in the semifinals to Bagdat Zhubanysh of Kazakhstan.
Malaysia was represented by four athletes – Colleen, Amirah Najwa (women’s atomweight), Brandon and Tsan Nieng Khai (men’s heavyweight).
Association president Rashid Salleh said it is high time to prioritise youth development as the association aspires to get more young talents involved in the sport.
And the best place to start unearthing talents would be schools.
“That’s the mission, the big dream,” said Rashid.
“The key element is education. MASMMAA wants to educate the masses, especially parents, that MMA is just like any other combat sport which we already see in schools. In fact, MMA at the junior level has different rules. For instance, strikes to the face and head are not allowed.”
Karate, taekwondo and boxing are among the combat sports offered in Malaysian schools.
“We are also keen on starting a youth and national league. We want to work closely with gyms to get more amateur competitions going.”
But Rashid and his crew are mindful that the youth ecosystem would need a different approach.
“This would mean training trainers to train youths and working alongside gyms nationwide to encourage more youths to take up the sport.”
The journey of getting MMA into schools could be a long and winding but the association remains hopeful.
MMA was introduced to schools and colleges in India in 2016 while an MMA club was formed in Winchester High School, Massachusetts in 2006.
“We also have several youth-centric activities lined up and hopefully all this will lead up to MASMMAA owning an academy,” Rashid added.
As for Colleen and Brandon, the association is working to get funding for the duo for competitions abroad.
“As Asian champion, Colleen will compete in the IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships (Nov 9-17 in Manama, Bahrain). In fact, she will don the champion ‘black and gold’ kit.
“The bronze medal has given Brandon some points and thus he will be seeded in future events. We will prepare him and our other athletes for more competitions,” he added.