fighters

Adam Maldonado Jr. poses with his fellow fighters at the IMMAF Youth MMA World Championships in Bulgaria.

Even with his training time cut short due to two broken bones suffered earlier this year, Adam Maldonado Jr. did not stop.

Maldonado, age 12, won the bronze medal in his bracket at the 2021 IMMAF Youth Mixed Martial Arts World Championships, and as a result was offered the chance by IMMAF to be its U.S. Ambassador to help represent the sport.

The competition, which took place in Sofia, Bulgaria July 30-Aug. 1, was Maldonado’s first world championships.

Maldonado, who trains four hours a day in Jiujitsu and MMA, qualified for the tournament after winning two gold medals at nationals in Florida this year after a memorable performance that included competing in nine total matches, more than any other fighter at the meet, according to Maldonado Sr.

After winning the national championship in two different weight classes, Maldonado Jr. suffered two setbacks when he broke his finger sparring in May then broke his toe while doing Jiu Jitsu.

Not able to throw a punch for an entire month before the toe injury, in total he was only able to train for two and a half weeks.

“It was tough for him,” Maldonado Sr. said.

As for the actual competition, fighting in a global setting set the stage for an eye-opening experience.

 “The experience was cool to see all the countries, to see the countries train. It was really intimidating when we first got there. The countries were staring us down. I knew not to get thrown off by that,” Maldonado said. “When I walked out, it was a good feeling because everyone was screaming, USA. When I went in the ring, it was crazy cause you could hear (people chanting) Ukraine and USA. When I threw that first punch, I went through with it and I won my first match. When I won my first match, I felt like I was on top of the world.”

Maldonado Jr. started his MMA journey by participating in karate at age six, then adding to his skills by starting MMA when he was 10.

Elk Grove resident Maldonado’s trip was fully paid for by fundraisers, which helped the Nate Diaz fan earn what he hopes is just the beginning of more world medals to come.