IMMAF warns 'pop-ups' could undermine drive for Olympic recognition
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation has expressed concerns at the arrival of a potential rival in the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts, an independent governing body for MMA that is aiming to get International Olympic Committee recognition for the sport.
IMMAF claims that the emergence of “pop-up MMA federations” will only hinder the sport’s chances of recognition by causing needless divisions.
GAMMA, which was established last year by MMA executives and is based in Amsterdam, has received investment and endorsement from ONE Championship, the Singapore-based MMA series, and plans to stage its inaugural Amateur MMA World Championships in the Asian city-state in November.
However, Kerrith Brown (pictured), the president of IMMAF, which has itself been seeking recognition from the Global Association of International Sporting Federations, believes that the presence of multiple federations will only muddy the waters.
In a statement yesterday, he said: “Of course, anyone is free to form a group and call itself a governing body. But it is then for those the group claims to represent to be certain that it is legitimate. It is important to validate the group’s fitness to obtain its stated purpose and ensure that it adheres to international standards of good governance.
“Those who have followed or travelled with us on our journey over the past six years will know that it takes many years to build a federation that fulfils all its duties. It takes at least three years of organisational compliance to meet the criteria required by GAISF (the Global Association of International Federations), and this criteria is clearly published for all to see in the statutes on GAISF’s own website. It is well known that an organisation has to first be recognised by GAISF (and indeed the World Anti-doping Agency) before it can be considered for inclusion in the Olympic programme.
“As CEO Densign White has well detailed to our membership, GAISF requirements include a democratically elected board, audited accounts, evidence of General Assemblies, a WADA compliant anti-doping programme, a qualifying number of nationally recognised members and a track record of sport development. Even for IMMAF – WMMAA, which meets these requirements, Olympic inclusion is but a future vision. For an organisation without these elements in place, hope of sport or Olympic recognition is but a pipe dream.”
ONE said last week that it had agreed a “multi-year, seven figure" partnership with GAMMA, which will learn from ONE's experiences in “developing and promoting best practices in health and safety standards, anti-doping regulations, and competition rules for the daily safe practice of competitive mixed martial arts at the amateur level.”
MMA's bid for recognition at the highest echelons of world sport has so far been stymied by GAISF.
A two-year application process from IMMAF, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, to join GAISF under observer status was turned down by the latter association in February, with no official explanation having been provided.
Brown said on Wednesday: “I am honestly bemused by the appearance of these pop-up groups: During our application process for 'Observer Status' recognition, GAISF informed us that the greatest obstacle to MMA being accepted was rivalry from within the sport. This was due to competing claims from two world MMA governing bodies, IMMAF and WMMAA. In 2018, our two organisations dutifully merged, bringing together the best, and we have continued to work hard to unify the sport. Having addressed this rivalry objection, we were surprised by GAISF’s subsequent rejection of our application. We have been in communication with GAISF since and are in the process of reapplying.
“Against this background, the emergence of new, pop-up MMA federations does not serve the interests of the sport nor its bid for recognition. It can only serve to create unnecessary divisions and the perception of rivalry, which those who oppose our sport may try to use to obstruct us. It does not bring MMA any closer to recognition, which is much needed for safeguarding the sport’s participants. And it certainly does not make MMA’s Olympic dream any more tangible.”