Iceland – land of mma and weightlifters

Tiny Iceland has a big spirit.

Home to a mere 323,000 people, it holds less people than the borough of Barnet in North London, making it one of the smallest countries in the EEA.

While Iceland has no army – the only NATO member not to do so – the country has not been able to entirely repress the Viking spirit, something Sweden also shows signs of. While modern Icelanders are unable to join an army in search of war, they can participate in mma.

The nation’s most famous export in the sport is Gunnar Nelson, a 26 year old Brazilian Jiu Jitsu specialist who first made waves by becoming one of the youngest black belts in the sport before making his way to the UFC.

However he is not the  only Icelandic fighter. A raft of younger fighters are making moves in mma, including female fighter Sunna Rannveig Davíðsdóttir. Almost all of Iceland’s fighters emanate from the Mjölnir  gym, which is of course the home of Nelson.

Vice wrote a profile on the gym, which bizarrely operates in a nation where the sport is banned despite the fact that Nelson himself is extremely popular in Iceland.

Interestingly Iceland is also well-represented in the sport of powerlifting and in the world’s strongest men contest. Incredibly the country is ranked second  in the world’s strongest men contest, with the current hopes lying in the hands of Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson, the 6’9 giant weighing in at an incredible 31 stone of muscle.

A photo of Björnsson filming in Game of Thrones – where he played the character of Gregor Clegane – gives an idea of what a monster the man is. Interestingly much of the Game of Thrones series was filmed in Iceland, with this travel company even suggesting tours based on locations seen in the fantasy series.

While Iceland clearly has little chance of defending itself from a contemporary invasion, the blood of the Vikings manifests itself in other ways, despite the fact that Iceland is one of the  safest countries in the world.

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