Samoan martial artist gets gold in Amsterdam

By Marc Membrere 02 April 2022, 6:11PM

Another Samoan has thrown herself into the mixed martial arts ring and won gold at a recent international tournament in the Netherlands.

Inna Leniu of Malie village is the latest Samoan to etch her name into the sport’s folklore, taking out gold in the over–72.6kg category after beating Nourhen Sahraoui of Tunisia at the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (G.A.M.M.A.) worldwide tournament in Amsterdam.

Currently coached by Fight Club Fobsquad Coach Felise Fobfather Leniu, her victory on Monday this week (Tuesday local time) marks Samoa's first gold medal in one of the world’s fastest growing sports.

During the fight on Monday, Ms Leniu entered the arena waving the Samoan flag, and after three rounds proved too strong for her 19-year-old opponent, getting declared the winner of the fight.

In an interview with the Samoa Observer a day after her fight, Ms Leniu said she felt proud representing the country.

"I had a big cry after my fight because waving that flag on a global stage meant everything to me,” Ms Leniu said. But not for me it was for my Samoa, I am obviously a New Zealand-born Samoan but everything about me is Samoan.

“My blood, my values, my mannerism, my strength, my courage, my spirit comes from my Samoan upbringing and I wanted the M.M.A. world to remember Samoa.

"Second place wasn’t an option for being remembered and opening doors. 

“First place was and to be honest first place wasn’t for the global stage it was really to hopefully capture the attention of my people of Samoan heritage. 

“I really hope this could be the beginning of our Samoan M.M.A. athletes wanting to drive it home and join the movement of representing Samoa.”

The fighter was raised in Malie but had spent the majority of her life in Kahuku Hawaii and has been living in Brisbane for close to 6 years to pursue her dream of representing Samoa.

Speaking of her experience fighting at the global stage, Ms Leniu said not a lot of people know where Samoa was, and often she had to reference Hollywood megastar Dwayne The Rock Johnson and his Samoan heritage.

"I loved pulling my phone out to show people Samoa on the map, one thing they did understand though was they all knew the rock haha,” she said. “We are now positioned at 14 on the global ladder, I know with all the talent and amazing Samoan MMA fighters we have…we can be number 1.

"Also if there are any fighters that want to represent me please contact me. 

“We want and need approval from the Sports Commission of Samoa also to be able to open more opportunities for our Samoan fight community .  

"I’m saving all my money to return to Samoa and try to put that in action and visit my daddy who is buried in Malie. I’m gonna take my gold medal to him."

Prior to Ms Leniu’s success in the ring, there were Samoans already making a name for themselves in the sport. These included the legendary Samoan kick-boxer and martial artist Mark Hunt, who won the K-1 World Grand Prix 2001 Final at the Tokyo Dome in Japan in front of 65,000 spectators by defeating Brazilian kick-boxer and Kyokushin Karateka Francisco Filho.

Another martial artist with Samoan heritage, Genah Fabian of Saleimoa Lufilufi and Lefaga villages, went on to win the World Muay Thai Council’s World Title in early 2018 at the Oakland Marriott City Centre in California, U.S. 

By Marc Membrere 02 April 2022, 6:11PM
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