Promoter Karl Keller Talks Reign MMA & the Amateur Sport: What’s Next?

Promoter Karl Keller is buzzing following the recent debut of Reign MMA Championship in Dubai; his enthusiasm down the phone is tangible. The event was “his greatest experience in years” and “a lot of fun”, which he believes is essential.

Untypically for a private, international promoter, Reign showcased amateur MMA. Launching with heavyweight support from renowned SBG Ireland coach, John Kavanagh and KSW CEO and founder, Martin Lewandowski (Poland), the event pitted a (ultimately victorious) Team Ireland against Team Poland. IMMAF President Kerrith Brown was also in attendance.

How did Reign MMA come about? “I’ve been involved in MMA, teaching and training, for 15 years. A friend of mine Krzysztof Soszynski of UFC Gyms (Director of MMA & Fitness for UFC Gym Middle East) was approached by an events company (Core) who held a Worlds Ultimate Strongman in Dubai last October. As part of that we ran a very small MMA event, and they came back to us.”

Because there is no MMA governance structure in Dubai and the show being a first, Keller was cautious about jumping in at the deep end and wanted to start modestly. Hence he decided on a 5 aside, amateur teams event. He had always been a fan of SBG, and reached out to John Kavanagh via Instagram. They hadn’t previously known each other and had just one contact in common. Meanwhile, Soszynski had connections with KSW and approached Lewandowski.

Keller gives due credit to Kavanagh, Lewandowski, the fighters and coaches for their leap of faith in supporting the event.

“MMA is not the same as other, more established sports,” which are extremely hard to access as an outsider. “If you approach the sport with an open heart and mind there are opportunities. I truly thank and appreciate the time given by John and Martin, and also Kerrith (Brown) for travelling out to the event.”

Why amateur? “I believe it’s important for amateur fighters to get experience under the bright lights, to get a taste of the glitz, glamour and media. Many get the jitters when they transition to pro and that impacts their performance.”

Through Reign, Keller aims to create an “organic progression for top amateurs, a stepping stone up to the international pro level.”

Also, Keller believes strongly in the martial arts values promoted in amateur MMA, which he wants to give a platform to. Reign MMA has zero tolerance for bad behaviour and Keller cites the likes of UFC pros Darren Till and Donald Cerrone as honourable role models: “The best people in the sport are the gentlemen.”

While the IMMAF President Brown was in Dubai, discussions were held and introductions made for the establishment of a Dubai MMA governing body and for the development of the amateur sport in the country.

“I will do everything in my powers to help facilitate the creation of a Dubai federation,” says Keller,”in order for the sport to progress in the right direction. I believe in it.”

Meanwhile, Keller has Reign MMA Championship 2 to plan, and has been absolutely inundated with and overwhelmed by emails from hopeful fight teams around the world. There certainly seems to be strong demand for the platform. Keller’s first step is to determine the best format moving forwards for deciding who should fight who next.

Read IMMAF’s event preview and teams line-up:

Winning team, Ireland/ SBG at Reign MMA Championship

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IMMAF-WMMAA Reaches 100 Licensed Coaches Milestone

Pictured: IMMAF director of development Andrew Moshanov (center) alongside Austrian national team coaches, Gerhard Ettl (left) & Michael Ettl (right)

Last week IMMAF-WMMAA reached the milestone of confirming the world’s first 100 certified MMA coaches, recognised under the sport’s global governing body.

“Coaches are the backbone of a sport,” IMMAF development director Andrew Moshanov expressed. “Therefore, certifying coaches on a global scale will remain our priority. Within six months of its launch, the program has hit the number of 101 licensed coaches, which is still a modest number on the world scale, however just the beginning. We are aiming for much more.”

The Austrian MMA Federation, in collaboration with University of Graz, hosted the latest IMMAF-WMMAA Coach Certification course in early March. Suitably, the course took place within the Champions MMA Gym, a hub for Austrian MMA with a history dating back to the 1990s of hosting early Vale Tudo events and the evolution of MMA that would follow.

 “IMMAF-WMMAA recognises that, despite the fact that MMA is taking the world of martial arts by storm, it is still a young sport and we have to bridge a lot of gaps, including the field of coaching competency and proficiency, as any organised sport would aim to do. Therefore, our vision is to establish the coaching standards and assure that IMMAF-WMMAA licensed coaches deliver a safe and beneficial practice, worldwide.

“As for the course hosted by the Austrian Federation, I am impressed with the professionalism of the national team head coaches, Gerhard and Michael Ettl, who are the driving force for MMA development in Austria. Both have a clear vision for development of mixed martial arts as a sport in the country and offer no compromise on the quality and standards of training of the new generation of coaches.”

16 coaches were in attendance with seminars delivered by University tutors, Dr. Fritz Treiber and Robert Hartinger. Following the educational seminar and discussions, four coaches passed the theoretical examination.

“It is telling,” Mr. Moshanov added, “that the four coaches who passed the theoretical part of the exam will be given additional time to elevate their practical coaching approach to the level set by AUTMMAF, to fulfil the demanding national standard. I personally see this as a willingness of AUTMMAF to stay on top of the game in the long term.”

A lecturer in bio-molecular science at the University of Graz, Dr. Treiber was officially the 100th individual to receive a coaching license under IMMAF-WMMAA, and is the current president of the Austrian MMA Federation. With a background in Judo from the age of 8, he progressed to Muay Thai and kickboxing in the late 90’s while studying microbiology. Gerhard Ettl introduced “Freefighting” to Austria in 1999, birthing MMA within the nation, with Dr. Treiber as an early student.

Within six months, the vision of IMMAF-WMMAA to set unified coaching standards has grown across diverse cultures within MMA. Experienced course graduates hail from Austria, The Philippines, Greece, Cyprus, Panama, Colombia and Mexico, with a plethora of coaches from across further member nations set to join the list.

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UKMMAF Announces Biggest Women’s Team to Date for 2019 IMMAF-WMMAA Championships

By lead writer, Jorden Curran

Last week the UK MMA Federation (UKMMAF) confirmed the names of 10 women selected to represent the national team at IMMAF-WMMAA international amateur championships in 2019.

The UKMMAF is confident of surpassing the 2018 team total, dispatched last November to the Unified World Championships, featuring 6 women in a team of 18 athletes. Next slated for action in June at the 2019 European Open Championships in Rome, the UK women’s lineup would mark the biggest representation of female talent to date on the international competition platform.

Decorated competitor Joanne Doyle won European Open gold for the UK in 2016, in addition to World Championships bronze the following year before claiming the European Open silver medal in 2018. For last year’s World Championships, Doyle transitioned to take the reigns as UKMMAF women’s team coach, alongside husband James Doyle, junior team coach Mark Spencer and UK team leader, Nigel Burgess. Doyle and the UKMMAF have since remained active in their campaign to further women’s MMA within the UK squad through national team trials.

“I’m really excited to build on the success we had at the 2018 World Championships,” Doyle commented, “we have a great team of junior and senior women all on the hunt for a place on the podium.”

The UK enjoyed a hugely successful 2018 European Open campaign, placing 8th in the senior medal table and third in the juniors with medals secured by the national team’s Welsh contingent, including junior gold medalist Roan Crocker and senior bronze medalist Josh Hudson. Following in the footsteps of Northern Ireland, Wales later established an independent team in 2018 following the confirmation of Welsh National MMA Federation, MMA Cymru.

At the 2018 IMMAF-WMMAA World Championships, it was the UK’s junior squad members who secured two gold medals to place the nation 2nd in the junior medal table, via men’s bantamweight champion Muhammad Mokaev (11-0) and women’s flyweight champion, Megan Morris (pictured above), who now steps up to the senior athlete level on the hunt for European Open gold.

World bantamweight quarter-finalist Charlotte Brown also returns with the team, in addition to fellow world championships veterans Marie Spencer and Levi Steedman. Among the team’s newcomers is the promising Lexi Rook with the standout 4-0 record, plus Melissa Mullins who in 2018 made her amateur MMA debut with an early glimpse of devastating KO power, snatching a 14 second knockout win with a precise straight right hand.

UKMMAF selections for 2019 European Open women’s divisions include:

Records via online sources
Junior Athletes (exclusively for ages 18-20)

Strawweight – Liv Taylor (2-1-1)
Strawweight – Shannon Troup (1-1)
Bantamweight – Milly Horkan (2-0)
Lightweight – Izzy Mitchell

Senior Athletes (18+)
Strawweight – Marie Spencer (1-2)
Flyweight – Megan Morris (5-2)
Flyweight – Levi Steedman (2-2)
Bantamweight – Charlotte Brown (2-2)
Bantamweight – Lexi Rook (4-0)
Featherweight – Melissa Mullins (1-2)

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President Asdamongkol Welcomes Teams to Thailand for 2019 Asian Open

Athlete registration opened yesterday for the 2019 IMMAF-WMMAA Asian Open Championships of Amateur MMA, which will take place in Bangkok, Thailand, from 1 – 4 May 2019. To apply, athletes from around the world should contact their affiliated national MMA federation. The deadline for athlete registration is Wednesday 10 April.

The Championships in Bangkok replaces that which was orginally planned for China, but had to be moved due to bureaucratic obstacles. The Thai Mixed Martial Arts Federation (TMMAF) offered to host the tournament instead a matter of weeks ago, in January, and the IMMAF President has just returned from his latest recce to confirm all plans are in place for the smooth running of the competition.

IMMAF President Kerrith Brown said:

We are grateful to and proud of the Thai federation for generously offering to host the 2019 Asian Open Championships. At short notice, the federation has pulled out the stops to enable the tournament to go ahead. The Thai federation is well experienced in the organisation of high level amateur MMA events. From our visits to Bangkok over time and working experience with the Thai federation, the IMMAF – WMMAA team has every confidence in the delivery of a fantastic event and the best hospitality for the visiting teams.”

TMMAF President, Jitinat Asdamongkol, said:

The Thai MMA community and Thai Federation are very pleased to help facilitate the IMMAF-WMMAA Asian Open in Bangkok this year. We and the IMMAF- WMMAA execs team have worked diligently over the past several weeks to make this happen and it makes me feel very happy that Thailand will get to welcome and host the various nations’ federations and athletes to the land of smile and land of warriors in the grandest amateur MMA tournament to happen in the kingdom. This will be a historic moment for Thailand and will be instrumental in helping to show our government and the public that our country has amazing potential and capability to be among the important global hubs of MMA and combat sports. We would like to thank you, IMMAF- WMMAA, for trusting in us and giving us the opportunity to showcase our beautiful country and also our friends in the Thai MMA community and supporters of the sport to enable Thai MMA to come this far and have this opportunity. We are looking forward to welcoming all delegates and athletes soon.

The 2019 IMMAF – WMMAA Asian Open Championships will span three days and present opportunities for competitors across sixteen weight divisions (from Atomweight to Lightweight for women, and Strawweight to Super Heavyweight for men). Participation in all IMMAF – WMMAA tournaments accrue points for individuals and national teams in the IMMAF – WMMAA Amateur MMA Rankings, providing the opportunity for seeding and priority placement in flagship tournaments.

See Amateur eligibility criteria here:
See IMMAF Amateur MMA Rules here:


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Czech Republic Introduces World’s First University Amateur MMA Championships

In 2019 the MMA Association of the Czech Republic (MMAA) expands the sport’s integration with youth culture and participation development at the regional level, launching what is understood to be the world’s first university championships.

In January, the first Czech students participated in the Academic Championships of the Czech Republic. The amateur MMA competition was launched in conjunction with the nation’s academic sports authority – ČAUS (Czech University Sports Association).

PhDr. Ivana Ertlová, ČAUS president and board member of the International University Sports Federation (FISU), stated that the Czech Republic is the world’s first country to offer an official MMA competition to amateur athletes on campus.

8 universities are currently registered to compete in the year-long competition, expected to feature 9 tournaments leading towards a 10th round of finals. Competitors continue to train at their local clubs with additional training opportunities set on campus. The amateur MMA competition began one year following the introduction of a university BJJ league, with close to 100 grapplers from over a dozen schools.

The Czech MMA Association serves as the national affiliate under IMMAF, while in the process of merger negotiations with domestic counterparts, CSMMA, following the amalgamation of IMMAF and WMMAA to form the unified World MMA Governing Body.

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