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Eddie Goldman is the host and producer of the No Holds Barred international podcast, the publisher of the No Holds Barred blog, and a senior contributing editor at the ADCC News.

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    Tuesday, September 01, 2015

    No Holds Barred: Steve Koepfer on Inaugural Worlds and Future of Combat Wrestling 

    On this edition of No Holds Barred, host Eddie Goldman once again spoke with Steve Koepfer, the owner and head coach of New York Combat Sambo.

    On August 22, in Varna, Bulgaria, the inaugural world championship was held by the recently formed International Federation of Combat Wrestling (FICW).

    Wrestlers from 12 countries competed in this historic event. Steve Koepfer served as the head coach of the 2015 Men's U.S. Combat Wrestling Team, which did quite well at it. Each of the U.S. team's five wrestlers won medals, including one gold, two silver, and two bronze medals.

    We spoke with Steve Koepfer by phone Monday.

    "It was a great tournament," he said. "I think for a first worlds, it was actually really, really pretty incredible. It reminded me a lot of the early days of grappling, back in the mid-'90s. There was a lot of excitement. Everybody there was really excited to be part of something big and new."

    He continued, "It was a nice venue, but the guys could have been wrestling on dirt and been equally excited, because everybody knew that this was a historic moment."

    The videos from this event will be posted on YouTube shortly and will be available to watch for free.

    All of the wrestlers who competed at the combat wrestling worlds had made their country's team by winning a qualifying tournament. The competitors included many champions from freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling, sambo, and other disciplines.

    We discussed some of the future plans for combat wrestling, including next year's world championship, which will probably be held in Europe. This event, he said, was "a great springboard" for future world, regional, national, and local tournaments.

    FICW also held a congress there, making some important decisions about the direction combat wrestling will take. The congress decided to develop FICW as an "independent organization," he said, and will not seek sanctioning by any other federation. However, in some countries recognition by an existing federation (such as UWW, the international wrestling federation formerly known as FILA) is required by the government, so some arrangement of getting recognized but not sanctioned may be necessary. In any case, FICW plans to remain fully independent and hopes to "stay away from the politics of international sport." He also said that unlike many other federations, FICW plans to allow its national bodies some "freedom" to run their affairs.

    We also discussed plans to have more athletes train under combat wrestling rules, a proposed Pan American championship for next year, plans to hold at least four tournaments in the U.S. in 2016 including a World Team Trials, how combat wrestling has a "hybrid look" when compared to other types of wrestling and grappling, how combat wrestling is developing internationally compared to how catch wrestling is, plans for developing certification for coaches and officials, and much, much more.

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