Competing against the best from countries across the world, including the USA, Russia, Germany, France and Italy, the Bondi local gave Australia its first ever representation for the prestigious FILA association, the governing body for international amateur wrestling.
The tournament involved over 400 fighters who had won national titles in their representative country, offering Atkinson some tough competition.
“The standard of the competition was exceptional,” he said. “There were some very experienced competitors and everyone was there to compete hard and try to win. It was an excellent competition to be at and gave me a very clear indication of what I need to do to be successful in Mixed Martial Arts on the world stage.”
“While some will say placing third in the world may be a great success, there is a part of me that is disappointed as I put in a lot of effort to win. So it makes me want to go back next year, and compete even harder.”
Atkinson has now returned to Australia and has gone back to a gruelling training schedule six days a week to prepare for the 2013 FILA qualifiers in Guam early in the new year. He also plans to increase his schedule of local competitions in boxing and wrestling matches to further his fighting career.
“If I qualify again for the world championships then next year I will be going for gold.”
Whilst running his own MMA personal training business, Atkinson is also seeking sponsors to support his 2013 world championship bid.
“Mixed Martial Arts is exploding in popularity, mainly due to the success of the UFC,” he said. “Even local tournaments in Australia draw large crowds and the standard of competition is increasing every year. Sponsors have an opportunity to tap into this growing market and support local talent at the same time.”
Born in the Sydney suburb of Mount Druitt, Atkinson took up boxing from the age of 12 years old at the local PCYC while in State care and now trains and works as a personal trainer at Boxing Works, as well as running his own MMA personal training business. He is trained by Larry Papadopoulos, a former world number one light-heavyweight in Shooto. Papadopoulos has also won numerous Australian titles in sports jujuitsu, Brazilian jiu jitsu and wrestling.
FILA stands for the International Federation of Associated Wrestling Styles and is the world governing body of amateur wrestling, and therefore the body to supervise Olympic wrestling. It holds international tournaments for various wrestling styles including: Greco-Roman wrestling, freestyle wrestling, women's freestyle wrestling, FILA Grappling (No-gi style and gi style), Mixed Martial Arts (Amateur MMA and pro MMA tournament HFC), Beach wrestling and Pankration.
Based in Switzerland, FILA is represented around the world with committees in Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Europe, and Oceania.
Read the full 'Fight Life' interview with Sam Atkinson in the January 2013 issue of Blitz