The Scandinavian people have always had a warrior-like spirit – stemming from the warrior olden days of the Vikings when they conquered and fought as a method of life. That being said, this warrior-like spirit is very much alive to this very day. How and why the popularity of combat sports in the Nordics continues to grow?
Two words: Alexander Gustafsson. This behemoth of a person is one of the core reasons as to why combat sports are so popular in Scandinavia. He’s known as a killer in the cage – and has fought some terrifying fights in the UFC. One of the best fights in his career was when he faced UFC legendary light-heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, for the title. He lost the fight by the judges’ decision, but he did manage to do some serious damage to the by then untouchable Jon Jones.
MMA in Sweden is very organized and structured, and there are several established promotions like The Zone FC, Botnia Punishment, Vision Championships, and Superior Challenge that have been consistently putting on shows for several years. Before the most recent boom in MMA, European Vale Tudo (EVT) was putting on events throughout Sweden since the early 2000s.
Sweden was put on the map in 2012 with the UFC event in Stockholm, which was sold out with over 15,000 fans selling out in less than three hours after going on sale.
A couple of MMA fighters have broken through to the UFC, including Dan Everson and grappling heavyweight star Jon Olav Einemo and more recently Simeon Thoresen. Many fighters are starting to making names for themselves fighting internationally, including Jack Hermansson and Emil W. Meek and several others. One of the most popular Norwegian MMA fighters was the PRIDE legend Joachim “Hellboy” Hansen.
However, full contact MMA has been banned in Norway with significant obstructions placed on competition and no formal recognition, because of the law banning any sport where victory or points could be scored via knockout.
In 2016, the 33-year “knockout law” ban was lifted for the sport of boxing following a Parliament vote in Oslo. In April 2019, The Norwegian MMA Federation (NMMAF) has confirmed the groundbreaking achievement of recognition for Amateur MMA under the Norwegian Sports Federation. The NKF serves as Norway’s umbrella body for recognized combat sports such as Karate, Jujutsu, Wushu and Krav Maga. Both Mixed Martial Arts and Muay Thai are officially members of NKF.
Since then, Amateur MMA has gained official recognition in Norway. This gives an opportunity to efficiently manage and evolve the sport in a solid and secure way. Previously, “Merkekamper” competition has been allowed with athletes able to compete in an inter-club setting under “sparring” rules agreed by the NMMAF with the Norwegian government.
Anton Kuivanen has been signed to the UFC and Marcus Vänttinen has been signed to Bellator, and Finland is making it’s way up the international MMA scene. In terms of the quality of the MMA skillset and overall culture – Finland is a country that’s not to be underestimated. In fact, this is a country that has a very long tradition of combat sports. Two of the most popular fighting organizations in this country are Cage and Fight Festival. Also, in the past, there were no-holds-barred, brutal fighting events that captivated the attention of every true fighting fan.
Currently, MMA and Iceland have been synonymous with grappling prodigy Gunnar Nelson, who grew up in Reykjavik, Iceland. He is undefeated and putting Iceland on the MMA map. He started training MMA and BJJ at 17, and received belts from Matt Thornton (Straight Blast Gym) and John Kavanagh (SBG Ireland), before earning his BJJ black belt under the legendary Renzo Gracie in 2009.
At the age of 21, he came out of nowhere to make a splash on the premier grappling platform ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club World Championships). As a welterweight, Nelson was victorious over former heavyweight champion Jeff Monson and submitted light heavyweight David Avellan in a showing that put him immediately on the map in 2009.” There is no sanctioning body for MMA, and professional boxing is against the law.
Despite being a relatively small country – Denmark can brag for days about the state of its MMA culture. There is a disproportionately big number of MMA fans that live in this country. And there are several organizations and promotions that continue to host events. One of the first Danish MMA promotions goes by the name of Fightergalla. Fightergalla is the oldest of the current Danish events, and it’s promotor, Carl Otto Knudsen, is like the Godfather of Danish MMA. He has been involved in MMA in Denmark since day one, and he has put on a lot of different events over the years. Despite that it manages to put out good fights – this organization suffers from the lack of promotion.
Another important MMA organization in Denmark goes by the name of Cage Fight Live – and this organization benefits by bigger and better promotional activities.
As you can see, there are many reasons as to why these countries experience rising popularity in terms of combat sports. And this trend is very likely to continue both in the near and the distant future.