London: The “MMA Is A Sport” petition for the recognition of MMA as a sport by the Olympic Movement and governments has reached its first 10,000 signatures in just over a week.
This marks a significant milestone since, in the United Kingdom, 10,000 signatures on a petition warrants a response from Parliament.
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and MMA stakeholders assert that formal recognition 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 its 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. This has included advising the World Anti-doping Agency not to accept IMMAF as a signatory, despite its meeting all criteria. IMMAF has a legal case against WADA in underway in the ordinary Swiss Courts.
Meanwhile, IMMAF is currently waiting for a response to its third application to GAISF for Observer Status. In January 2020, IMMAF was informed by GAISF that: “Several Representatives of GAISF Members had affirmed their opposition to the granting of the Observer Status to IMMAF. Their determinations…is justified on several reasons including but not limited to the inherent definition of mixed martial arts and that its competition rules are in clear compatibility issue with GAISF Members. We would also like to specify that GAISF had received individual submissions confirming compatibility issue due to the similarity between MMA and several combat sports.”
As requested, IMMAF responded with detailed analysis and evidence in February for reassessment. However, GAISF’s decision-making has been postponed further with the cancellation of the SportAccord Convention, where the GAISF Council was due to next meet.
IMMAF CEO Densign White said: “This has been going on since 2016, despite us meeting all criteria for recognition. We want to focus attention on the process which we think is unfair. By going public we now call upon participants and sports fan to rally behind our petition. We are not the only sport to have suffered due to the lack of a fair and transparent process. A small group of International Federations within GAISF are operating as a trade union and not in the interest of sports participants. Considering the impact this has on government decision making, sport governance and access to public funding, they need to come out into the open and become accountable.”
MMA’s FIGHT FOR RECOGNITION: A TIMELINE OF KEY EVENTS:
|Jun 2016||IMMAF applies to become World Anti-doping Agency signatory|
|Aug 2016||IMMAF applies to the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF) for sport recognition of MMA|
|Nov 2016||WADA rejects IMMAF on GAISF’s recommendation (*WADA signatory status is required to meet GAISF Membership criteria)|
|Feb 2017||GAISF informs IMMAF its application is incomplete and cannot be processed|
|Apr 2017||GAISF cites application from rival organisation WMMAA as reason for rejection and advises IMMAF to cooperate with them|
|GAISF facilitates meeting between ‘rival applicants’ WMMAA & IMMAF, advising a unified application is the only way to achieve recognition for MMA|
|Feb 2018||IMMAF issues WADA with a formal Notice of Legal Action|
|GAISF representatives advise IMMAF and WMMAA to apply to GAISF for the new Observer Status|
|IMMAF is verbally told GAISF has lost its original application and to reapply|
|IMMAF discovers from WMMAA that they had been personally invited to apply to GAISF and attend the 2017 workshop by a GAISF Council Member. *It later emerges they had never submitted their application (due to the “rivalry” situation).|
|May 2018||IMMAF signs a legally binding Affiliation MOU with WMMAA|
|IMMAF reapplies to GAISF|
|Nov 2018||IMMAF and WMMAA complete fully executed Affiliation Agreement, and hold first unified World Championships|
|Mar 2019||IMMAF’s 2nd application is rejected by GAISF without explanation|
|Mar 2019||With no advice still from GAISF, IMMAF reapplies for Observer Status|
|Aug 2019||Mediation with WADA fails; IMMAF agrees to postpone its legal case for 4 months so WADA can review its statutes (requiring GAISF to approve membership decisions)|
|Oct 2019||Inside The Games leaks news of GAISF’s rejection of IMMAF’s application; this is refuted in private communications with GAISF|
|Nov 2019||GAISF writes to its members asking them to formally raise objections to or rivalry issues with MMA before 31.12.2019.|
|Jan 2020||IMMAF meets WADA in court for first technical hearing; WADA’s request for further postponement is refused by judge|
|GAISF writes to inform IMMAF that (unnamed) combat sports have cited their issue with MMA as being “non-compatibility”.|
Roberto Villa is the CEO, Founder, 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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