London: The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation [IMMAF] has joined with stakeholders across MMA to launch a public petition that demands formal recognition of the sport by the Olympic Movement and governments around the world.
Formal recognition of MMA as a sport would enable the implementation of governance and regulations to ensure health and safety for recreational participants, as well as amateur and professional athletes. It would help foster youth development in MMA, and afford same rights and protections for MMA athletes as students of other sports, such as access to medical services, insurance, anti-doping, safeguarding, etc. In addition, formal recognition of MMA as a sport by the Olympic Movement would pave the way for MMA to become an Olympic sport and allow MMA athletes to represent their country on the world’s most prestigious sporting platform.
IMMAF has applied multiple times to gain recognition for MMA from the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) since 2016, but despite satisfying all known criteria has been denied acceptance so far for political reasons. Influential leaders from other Olympic sports have been outspoken against MMA and have actively lobbied against it.
The ‘MMA Is A Sport’ campaign calls upon all stakeholders, participants and fans of MMA to join as one in urging the International Olympic Committee and Sports Ministers worldwide to address the MMA’s application for sport recognition.
- Recognition as a sport gives MMA athletes and students the same rights and protection as athletes and students of other sports (e.g. access to medical services, accident and injuries insurance, safeguarding of U18s and vulnerable adults, Anti-doping services, youth development, etc.)
- Recognition means good governance and regulations to ensure athletes health and safety, standardisation of competition rules and regulations, officiating and coaching standards.
- Recognition enables safe and effective youth development.
- Recognition would give MMA a pathway to eventually becoming an Olympic sport and the best amateur MMA athletes the opportunity to represent their country at the Olympic Games.=
- International recognition would enable recognition on a national level in many countries which will have a positive impact many communities.
- Recognition means funding of the sport and its elite amateur athletes at a national level.
FACTS ABOUT MMA
- MMA competitors are highly skilled athletes.
- MMA has 600 million fans around the world.
- Different unified rules exist for amateur and professional competitions.
- IMMAF is the International governing body for amateur MMA.
- There are 100+ IMMAF affiliated National Federations across the world developing the sport of MMA, with only 40 being recognized by their Sports Ministries or National Olympic Committees.
- IMMAF has held annual World Championships since .
- In 2019 IMMAF held world and continental championships for youth, juniors and seniors with over 2130 participants from 60 countries.
- Youth MMA is already thriving – IMMAF’s first Youth World Championships for 12 to 17-year-olds attracted more than 600 participants in 2019.
- It is misconception that MMA is less safe than other contact sports: Well regulated MMA has more stringent safety policies than most comparable sports.
- Amateur athletes and many professionals are subject to WADA compliant anti-doping policies.
Sign petition: https://www.change.org/mmaisasport
UFC COO Lawrence Epstein said: “The incredibly skilled men and women who compete in professional and amateur mixed martial arts around the world deserve recognition for their sport. Like the world-class Olympians whose sports already have formal IOC recognition, MMA athletes have dedicated many years to developing their abilities, and they deserve to have the opportunity to showcase their talents on the historic, global stage that the Olympics provides. Among the core values of MMA are sportsmanship and respect for your competitors—values that are well aligned with the Olympic Movement. For this reason and many others, we stand with IMMAF in calling on the IOC to formally recognize MMA as a sport, once and for all.”
IMMAF President Kerrith Brown said: “The lack of transparency around how sports are recognised at an international level not only affects MMA but has far-reaching impact across various sports communities worldwide, outcasting participants and exposing them to unnecessary risk. This includes children and impacts our ability to foster the development of the next generation in a safe and well governed environment. The power of the International Sport Federations movement cannot be underestimated, as their judgements are frequently deferred to by governments worldwide in their decision making about sport and significant tax-payer funding of sport. We call on the International Olympic Committee and sports ministers to review and ensure fair process in the international recognition and governance of sport, to protect the rights of citizens globally to safe and equitable access to the sport of their choice.”
M1 – Global President and IMMAF Hon. President, Vadim Finkelchtein said: “After just twenty years of its existence there is no country in the world without MMA. With the fan base, popularity and opportunities the sport of MMA has to offer, the IOC should be wanting us to join. It took MMA just two decades to show the world its values, the respect between its athletes and its unique skillset. It obvious to me how traditional martial arts are using their position and pulling strings to stop MMA from being recognised. But sport should not be about politics. The International Sports organisations should be backing the interests of the majority instead of following the lead of the few. MMA is a sport and our recognition cannot be stopped. It is just a matter of time. Acceptance of MMA will mark a new era in the history of the IOC.”
Cage Warriors CEO, Cas Knight said: “Sport recognition would have a positive impact on the organisation of professional MMA across Europe. It would facilitate easier access for athletes to professional services, such as medical services, and enable all round governance of the sport to the benefit of its participants.”
Mohammed Shahid, CEO of KHK Sports, CEO of KHK MMA and the President of BRAVE Combat Federation, said: “It is imperative for MMA that a strong body like the IMMAF can bring the mixed martial arts community together with one united vision. We need to have stronger regulations and need to collaborate as a sport. It is our duty as representatives for the sport of MMA to move forward in a way that is in the best interest of the athletes and the image of MMA; currently MMA is being misrepresented as a sport. A new system is needed for mixed martial arts. We need to move beyond the event business and move into the sports business. Organising the sport under a structured, monitored health and sports system is the first steps towards regulating the sport. IMMAF is leading amateur MMA as the international governing body and to have IMMAF recognised is key for the sport.”
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Executive Writer, Senior Editor of FightBook MMA. Has a passion for Combat Sports and also a podcast host for Sitting Ringside. He’s also a former MMA fighter and Kickboxer.
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