Olympic MMA would add to growth of all combat sports, national leaders agree

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

In recent weeks IMMAF.org conducted a series of interviews with board members and national federation leaders from across the globe following the announcement of IMMAF president Kerrith Brown setting the aim of taking amateur MMA to the 2028 Olympics in Los Angeles, USA.

“The host city matters because it has the power to elect non-Olympic sports into the Games programme as demonstration sports,” the IMMAF president stated. “For example, Tokyo 2020 will feature baseball, skateboarding and surfing. It is as a demonstration sport that we would expect MMA to debut.

“We believe our prospects are strong because MMA is a mainstream sport in the US and has a strong media, commercial and political presence. MMA is recognised under state laws there and in LA it is regulated lawfully by the California State Athletic Commission. While we will continue lobbying in France and will push for inclusion in 2024, I am more confident about inclusion for 2028.”

He added: “IMMAF needs to first and foremost attain recognition from SportAccord (now GAISF), who are the gatekeepers to the IOC. Until we gain that recognition we are not in the running. We have an application in progress and meet all required criteria, except for acceptance by the World Anti-doping Agency – which has been blocked by GAISF members. We know MMA’s opponents to include judo, Muay Thai and wrestling, which to us demonstrates a very clear conflict of interests. This is something that we are challenging and will continue to fight.”

Self preservation among disciplines currently recognised by the IOC has no doubt resulted in the development of questionable hurdles, blocking MMA’s pursuit of acceptance. IMMAF believes this approach to be misguided and leading figures around the world are unified in the belief that Amateur Mixed Martial Arts in the Olympic Games would drive further engagement towards the variety of core disciples. With IMMAF many of MMA’s stakeholders are themselves veterans of judo, kickboxing or wrestling – the list goes on – and each looks forward to future cooperation for the betterment of all Olympic combat sports.

Stuart Brain, IMMAF board member and representative of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation of Australia (IMMAFA), likened MMA to be the ‘Decathlon’ of Olympic combat sports and suggests: “MMA as an Olympic sport can enhance the profile of others and show the world the best combined combat athlete.”  

Through their skill sets and athletic backgrounds, premier mixed martial artists around the world have consistently promoted and driven future generations towards training and participation within a multitude of individual disciplines.

Similarly, USA MMA Federation (UMMAF) director, Ryan Brueggeman, explained: “MMA has earned its place in the Olympic Games because of its global reach and interest. MMA is the fastest growing amateur combat sport in the world. Its inclusion into the games would bring new audiences, revenue and an alternative for amateur athletes to turning professional.

I think that the inclusion of MMA into the games would also boost interest in the other combat sports as athletes begin to research the other disciplines that will make them more rounded fighters.”

IMMAF board member and  German Mixed Martial Arts Federation (GEMMAF) representative, Tom Madsen, stated: “It is time that people unfamiliar with MMA get to know the truth and to experience first-hand, how much energy a sport discipline can have and how a sport can be tough, and yet safe for its participants.

“MMA promoters will be encouraged to follow the safety and progression of the IMMAF structure to create safe pathways for educated athletes with optimal skills.”

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