NEW YORK, November 1 - The International Fight League (IFL) today announced the beginning of expansion into Europe by naming world champion Ian Freeman as the coach of the IFL’s English team, which will begin participation in the IFL in 2008. The English team will begin training and participating in IFL activities later this year.
"We are very excited that Ian Freeman has decided to become the first of what we expect to be several IFL entries from various countries in the next few years," said IFL co-founder and commissioner Kurt Otto. "The United Kingdom has fervent support for fight sports in general and is a growing hotbed for MMA, and we are proud to be able to begin to establish our European base with Ian and his athletes."
"Being a part of the team concept that the IFL has put together is an honor for me," Freeman said. "The UK is the perfect starting point for the league in Europe, and I am looking forward to working with, and competing against, some of the sports greatest legends as well as training many of its future stars."
A former boxer, "The Iron Ambassador," is arguably one of the most popular figures in the fight game in Europe. He began his MMA career training with world champions (and now fellow IFL coaches) Renzo Gracie and Marco Ruas and competed in amateur vale tudo before turning pro in 1999. He steadily gained notoriety, eventually taking the UFC title over Frank Mir in front of a record British crowd at Royal Albert Hall in July 2002. Freeman has trained, coached and competed in various organizations over the past few years, most recently taking the British Light Heavyweight title from Mark Epstein in September 30, 2006.
The addition of a team in the UK now brings the total of teams outside the United States to three, with more teams expected to be named in the near future. The Sabres, based in Tokyo and coached by Antonio Inoki, and the Dragons, based in Toronto, Ontario and coached by Carlos Newton, have already begun play and will be part of the IFL inaugural 12 team season that will begin in the first quarter of 2007. The final two entries for 2007, which will both be United States-based, will be announced shortly, with the full 11 date IFL schedule to follow.