Elite Amateur Athletes
New Zealand's Michelle Montague has had a short but impactful IMMAF career so far, and made her debut at the 2019 World Mixed Martial Arts Association Oceania Open Championships with a winning effort over Mel Webster via kneebar submission.
Since then, Montague has been rampant in the women's lightweight division, winning all six of her bouts so far in her amateur career, five by submission and none lasting the full three rounds.
Montague has won four of her bouts before the end of round one, with only her opening match of the 2019 IMMAF World Championships going to the third round, where she won by technical knockout against Russia's Olga Rusina.
In a rematch with fellow New Zealander Webster, Montague won her first world title in 2019, winning in 99 seconds with an armbar submission.
Montague then won her second IMMAF Oceania Open Championship in 2020 with a second round win over Finland's Jenni Kivioja via armbar submission, in the process winning her sixth match and continuing her unbeaten record.
Nickname: The Wild One
Bagdat Zhubanysh of Kazakhstan fights in the men's strawweight division, the lightest weight category for men, and has had a bright start to his career in MMA.
In 2018, he started in IMMAF-sanctioned competition by winning the world junior title, being awarded the decision unanimously in the final against Ukraine's Roman Syrkin.
However, 2019 was the Kazakh’s most memorable year after he won the Asian Open and the senior world title.
A triangle choke hold followed by an armbar submission won him the Asian Open early in the year, before he progressed to the biggest stage.
Two unanimous decisions were followed by a split decision victory over compatriot Sagyn Kazbek in the final, making him one of the very few athletes to win junior and senior world titles.
Muhammad Mokaev is one of the first developmental graduates to advance to professional MMA through the IMMAF structure, making him one of the hottest prospects in the sport.
Born in Dagestan in Russia, Mokaev has made his home in England and started his career in Manchester at the age of 15. He has yet to look up at the lights in his amateur or professional career.
His winning streak at amateur level ended at a colossal 23-0 before he made the switch to the professional ranks in 2020.
As a junior, Mokaev won the world title twice in the men's bantamweight division - on both occasions after defeating Japan's Reo Yamaguchi by unanimous decision.
He also won the 2019 IMMAF European Junior Championships against Yamaguchi.
In a third of his bouts, Mokaev has won by knockout or submission.
He made his professional debut in August 2020 by winning via unanimous decision against Glenn McVeigh of Northern Ireland, and has since won the rest of his bouts by either submission or knockout, all at the age of just 20.
Amateur record: 23-0
Nickname: The Punisher
Russian-born Bahrain athlete Pasha Kharkhachaev has been the dominant force in the men's super heavyweight class over the past few years, winning two world, one European and one Asian title.
His first six bouts ended by either knockout or technical knockout, all finishing after one round.
However, Kharkhachaev’s last two bouts have still shown his superiority, as he won both by unanimous decision. This included the 2019 world final against Rassul Khatayev of Kazakhstan.
His 2018 world title was won in just 44 seconds after he knocked out Grigory Ponomarev of Russia.
After periods fluctuating between weight divisions, Bezan Mahmudi has thrived after finding her home in the atomweight class, the lightest in women's MMA.
Although she suffered losses at bantamweight, strawweight and flyweight, the Swedish fighter is undefeated in her new class, where she won the 2019 world title and the 2020 Oceania Open.
She won by unanimous decision over Ayan Tursyn of Bahrain at the 2019 IMMAF World Championships, and then claimed victory over Magdalena Czaban of Poland at the Oceania Open, continuing a run of four straight wins in the division.
Ukraine's Anastasiya Svetkivska had one of the clearest paths to victory at the 2019 IMMAF World Championships, as she forced her opponents to tap out via armbar in all three of her last women's strawweight matches.
This included her final bout against Australia's Olivia Ukmar as she added to her European Open title victory earlier in the year, where she was given the unanimous decision against Sweden's Nina Back.
Russia's Gadzhimurad Bagautdinov is the reigning world champion in the men's heavyweight division, but his road to the 2019 title showed a true test of character.
His first defeat in IMMAF-sanctioned competition came at the Russian MMA Championships in early 2019 to Shamil Kuramagomedov, before he lost the IMMAF European Championship final to another compatriot, Shamil Gaziev.
In true Hollywood fashion, Bagautdinov made Gaziev tap out in the semi-finals of the 2019 IMMAF World Championships with a rear naked choke in the first round, before he defeated Kuramagomedov by unanimous decision in the final.
Murtaza Talha Ali
Another graduate to professionalism, Bahrain's Murtaza Talha Ali remains undefeated in his MMA career following 13 victories at amateur level.
A veteran of amateur MMA, Ali was crowned as 2017 world champion in the light-heavyweight class after a win in the final against Pavel Pahomenko, also fighting out of Bahrain.
After a European Open title victory in 2018, Ali won the 2019 world title as well and rounded off his amateur career with victory over Australia’s Patrick Best at the Oceania Open.
In November 2020, Ali made the switch to professionalism, defeating Belarus' Vadim Litvin in his first bout, before adding Russia's Dmitriy Krivulets to his list of defeated fighters in January 2021.
Amateur record: 13-0
Bahrain's Ramazan Gitinov has slowly made himself a top contender in the welterweight division, having won at the 2019 IMMAF World Championships and the 2020 Oceania Open.
It took him some time to find his feet after early career losses at the 2017 IMMAF Africa Open Championships and the 2017 IMMAF World Championships, but since then he has been on an unbeaten streak which saw him win the Asian, European and world titles in 2019.
Russia's Murad Umachiev is yet to be defeated in amateur MMA, following the 2019 season where he claimed both the Russian MMA title and the IMMAF world title in the lightweight division.
His victory in the latter came after five successive unanimous decisions, showing his dominance throughout the competition.
Sweden's Bianca Antman is the reigning 2019 world champion in the women's strawweight class, but will be unable to defend her title after turning professional.
Antman sealed the world title with victory over New Zealand's Hannah Dawson in the second round with a rear naked choke.
In 2020, she won the Oceania Open Championship after forcing Dawson's compatriot Jessica Bradley to tap out in the opening round, having locked on an armbar.
Antman turned professional in August 2020, winning her sole bout to date in a match with Finland's Veera Nykanen.
Amateur record: 5-1-0
Undefeated in the women’s bantamweight division, Guangmei Han is one of China's best prospects following her unanimous decision victory over Ireland's Shauna Bannon in the 2019 World Championship final.
Han was also a unanimous victor over Sora Rakhmonova of Kazakhstan at the 2019 Asian Open.
Sabrina Laurentina de Sousa
World champion in the women's featherweight class, Sabrina Laurentina de Sousa has shown her submission prowess so far in her amateur career.
The Bahrain athlete made all of her opponents tap out during the 2019 IMMAF World Championships - with her opening win coming via knee bar submission before she ended her next three matches via armbar.
Jasmine Favero was her opponent in the final as De Sousa claimed her first world title.
Russia's Gadzhimurad Zavaev is one of the most experienced amateur MMA athletes on the scene today, with his IMMAF-sanctioned career dating back to 2015 when he recorded his only loss.
Since then, he has won two Russian MMA titles, as well as the men's bantamweight world title in 2019.
Ukraine's flyweight world champion Ata Atdayev is a professional graduate who made the move after unanimous final victories at the 2019 IMMAF European and World Championships respectively.
Having tasted defeat at the 2018 World Championships, Atdayev remained undefeated for the rest of his amateur career. His final bout came against Israel Galvan of the United States in the world final before he opted to turn pro.
Since then, Atdayev has won both of his professional bouts, one by referee stoppage and one via a guillotine choke submission.
Amateur record: 10-1-0