MMASucka writers Shawn Smith and Justin Faux are venturing to every corner of the world to bring you the MMASucka International Spotlight. Every Monday and Thursday in November, a new article will debut highlighting the best fighters, prospects, and promotions from a country we feel deserves some spotlight. Enjoy.
When the Ultimate Fighting Championship put tickets on sale for their first event in Sweden, the Erickson Globe Arena that holds 15,000 spectators was sold out in a matter of hours. Sweden is a market that hasn’t got their casual fix of staged violence for years. Over four decades ago boxing was banned and with its absence, fight fans have been pushed towards mixed martial arts.
A large reason for the meteoric rise in popularity has been the light-heavyweight juggernaut Alexander Gustafsson. The talented Swede has risen through the ranks at 205-pounds and placed his name in the mix of top challengers for the championship that currently resides around the waist of Jon Jones.
While Gustafsson has taken the flame and ran with it, it was actually Reza Madadi who industry insiders pegged as the one to be Sweden’s poster-boy. Madadi was a headlining act on cards in his homeland and has made it to the big-show now with a pair of fights in the UFC’s stacked lightweight logjam but it seems it’s too little, too late at 32-years-of-age.
Caged-combat sport has had a loyal fan base and a handful of gyms popping up over the country as far back as the late-nineties the sport has only in recent times began to really grow with a few promotions worth keeping an eye out for.
The top organizations at this minute are The Zone Fighting Championships and Superior Challenge. The Zone FC have been more instrumental in finding good prospects but neither really has a solid leg up on the competition in terms of size, notoriety or paid attendance.
Both being founded in 2008 they have battled to get the top fighters from Sweden in their organization but Superior Challenge has made an effort to bring in outside talent from overseas like Thales Leites or Jameel Massouh to test the promotion’s finest.
The main reason Sweden needs to be a market you keep an eye on is there are some interesting and talented prospects that could start rocking-and-rolling in the UFC or Bellator if they chose to move to North America.
Assan Njie, the 28-year-old Swedish welterweight has been someone to keep an eye on for a while. Currently holding The Zone FC’s welterweight crown, the former middleweight has taken huge strides in his game in recent times.
Njie has trained in hand-to-hand combat with Alistair Overeem and Wanderlei Silva in the past and is a dangerous striker with a good submission game. Similar to UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, Njie likes to stun his opponents with his strikes of the feet or in the thai-plum before finishing with a choke.
The biggest chink in his armor though is his wrestling, while he has shown improvement in that area if he can’t get that under control he would have a lot of trouble with elite welterweights.
Tor Troeng was a fighter that was criminally overlooked when the UFC scouted the Country for talent earlier this year. He has since put an exclamation mark on that statement with a win over fellow highly-touted prospect Mats Nilsson.
The well-rounded fighter has done on-the-job training for most of his career, racking up as many fights as he could, especially in the earlier shades of his career. The 6-foot-2 middleweight has trained in North America at Alliance Training Center but has yet to compete there.
Ultimately Troeng might be well-rounded to a fault. I see this with a lot of prospects these days, especially coming out of Europe. They train mixed martial arts from day one and never get a skill that out-weighs the rest.
At this stage, Troeng is a fighter that needs fights against stiffer competition or he will just remain in purgatory as a top fighter in Sweden but a mediocre fighter elsewhere.
Unlike most of the prospects on this list, Sirwan Kakai is in no rush to make it to the big-league. At just 22-years-of-age the Swedish wrestler is Zone FC’s 135-pound king and is known for ragdolling opponents with powerful slams and vicious ground-and-pound.
The once beaten bantamweight trains part-time in Florida at American Top Team as well as Team GBG alongside fellow prospects Bruno Carvahlo & Assan Njie.
The youngster made it past the first stage of casting for season fourteen of The Ultimate Fighter but didn’t make the final cut of 32 fighters which indicates that he is at least on the radar of the elite MMA organization.
Kakai is a talent that isn’t seasoned enough to tussle with UFC’s upper-echelon combatants but with time to improve on his boxing and submission game and he could be a real talent in his mid-twenties.
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