Straight Blast Gym submission specialist Lee Hammond has no immediate plans of going pro following his gold medal capture at the IMMAF amateur world championships.
Hammond, a jiu-jitsu brown belt under John Kavanagh, saw off four opponents to claim gold in the senior lightweight category Sunday in Bahrain.
The Dubliner’s win helped Team Ireland bring home eight medals in total from the junior and senior amateur tournaments, including three gold medals.
Known for being the first person to hit a berimbolo sweep in MMA competition, the Irishman won plaudits for his first-round finish, a spectacular omoplata/rear-naked choke hybrid later dubbed “The Hammo-plata” by IMMAF.
After coming so close in amateur international competition in the past, Hammond revealed his delight with finally claiming gold.
“It felt great,” Hammond told the Eurobash podcast. “The last one I fought in, it was a split decision loss in the final… it was close. I had to go and win it this time.”
Speaking after clinching the gold medal, Hammond mentioned that his career had nearly been cut short by an injury. He revealed that the injury was sustained while he was training for the same tournament last year in Lagos, Portugal.
“I was preparing for that tournament last year and I went to the McGregor Fast Institute over in Lagos, Portugal, it’s also known as Shinobi Mixed Martial Arts, Colin Byrne’s place,” he recalled.
“One of the nights I went in to do wrestling, I was up against the fence, I hit a throw on someone and I landed on top of a knee. It was a freak accident, I twisted into the knee—it was a strong knee and it landed just below my belly button. I went to do the next wrestling round and I just couldn’t do it. I was in bits.”
Hammond credits the people who were with him, Byrne and Jeffrey Knight, for getting to the root of the problem. The SBG fighter had to go to three different Portuguese hospitals before the injury was diagnosed as a perforated bowel. The Crumlin native had to rest for eight weeks after an emergency surgery and slowly started working towards competing again.
Although IMMAF gold has proved to be the last port of call for a lot of high-profile amateurs of the years, Hammond insisted he has no immediate plans to transition to the pro ranks. Instead, the SBG jiu-jitsu ace is focusing on growing his skill set:
“It’s not so much amateur or pro for me, really. I know everyone talks about that but it’s about feeling comfortable everywhere and being at a really solid level everywhere—that’s what my goal is and I’m feeling very solid everywhere.”
“I’m going to work really hard on my striking,” he added, “Because when I go to professional I don’t see myself stopping. You go pro and then that’s it, you sign a pro deal and you’re fighting. I want to be excellent everywhere, that’s what I’m working on right now.”
Check out the latest episode of Eurobash. The Lee Hammond interview begins at 54:40.