New Algerian Member Expands IMMAF’s Footprint in Africa


IMMAF welcomes the Algerian Federation of Kickboxing, MMA and Similar Sports as its sole recognised governing body for MMA in Algeria and its 13th member from the African continent

The National Federation is recognised by its Ministry of Sport, and is working to develop MMA with the goal of creating an independent MMA federation in the future. The organisation represents the majority of the MMA community in Algeria and is the only one licensed to run MMA competitions nationally.

The Algerian Federation’s board consists of elected members with a background in MMA and combat sports, who are also professionals in fields such as medicine and finance. Its membership is composed of officials and experienced athletes, with a range of organisational and technical expertise. Each MMA club practices at least three times a week and undergoes annual technical tests.

The federation is working to expand through its member athletes, coaches and staff and aims to develop children’s pathways, refereeing and technical courses as the first steps in creating a solid curriculum. Work is underway to organise national championships to select the Algerian team that will compete at the 2019 IMMAF | WMMAA World Championships.

The Algerian Federation has additionally partnered with professional teams and MMA fighters both inside and outside of Algeria.

In a statement, President Mesboua Hocine, said,

” We look forward to working with IMMAF and thank the international federation for working on the development of MMA on a global scale.”

Ukraine Team Reflects on Youth MMA World Championships Success

There was a sense of anticipation and mystery heading into the inaugural IMMAF -WMMAA Youth MMA World Championships, hosted last month in the city of Rome.

The first event of its kind on a major international scale, 26 member nations of IMMAF – WMMAA came together in the Italian capital, represented by over 250 young athletes spanning three age/rule categories: Youth C (12-13), Youth B (14-15) and Youth A (16-17).

It was uncertain as to which nations would emerge as leaders of the youth championships. With amateur MMA at the senior level not wholly reflective of the professional scene with regards to national prominence, the spectrum of global talent among U18s was yet to be mapped out; surprises were anticipated.

It was, however, the USA who lived up to the expectation of being the undisputed hotbed of mainstream mixed martial arts, showcasing how the sport’s prominence has filtered to younger generations. The U.S. team, headed by the USFL, dispatched 34 athletes as the championship’s biggest team and excelled atop the medal table with 28 total podium positions and 16 golds (read more on USFL at Youth Worlds HERE).


Early predictions for standout achievers included the likes of Russia, England and Ireland. However, it was Ukraine who claimed second place in the medal table.

At the forefront of MMA, Ukraine remains somewhat under the radar of MMA’s wider audience, the few exceptions to reach the sport’s mainstream audience being the likes of heavyweight MMA legend, Igor Vovchanchyn and current UFC light-heavyweight Nikita Krylov.

However, at the domestic and amateur level, Ukraine enjoys a flourishing and progressive MMA scene, keen to engage with unified sport development. It was this progressive mindset, initiated by the Ukraine MMA Federation and its president Oleg Rozhkevich, that served as the catalyst for the nation’s breakout success at the Youth World Championships, edging Russia to second place in the gold count by claiming 7 youth world titles.

“As soon as we knew the rules for the under-18’s world championships, we had them translated and given to our coaches,” Anton Blank revealed, Executive Director of the Ukraine MMA Federation.

“The coaches had enough time and information to prepare. Also we had Ukrainian Championships in the beginning of March so only the best U18 athletes from all Ukraine were taken to the national team and could compete in the world championships. I think after such a good result MMA will become much more popular among the parents of Ukrainian kids and they will bring their children to the sport of MMA.”

(Above) Ukraine’s youth athletes and coaches ready for action at the Youth World Championships.

Ukraine’s foresight for preparation and willingness to endorse unified standards provides great optimism for continued progress. Not only in the competitive realm, the national federation has recently welcomed head of regulatory affairs, Marc Goddard, to deliver the IMMAF certification course for referees and judges, spreading practice and understanding of the unified amateur rule set.

Success at the Youth World Championships gives the sign that processes are in place to ensure development of home grown talent for years to come. Ukraine’s biggest success to date under IMMAF-WMMAA comes following steady success for the past two years at the senior level, with Ukrainian athletes consistently achieving titles and podium positions at the World Championships and European Open. Ukraine occupies 6th place in the current national rankings.

Blank added, “Ukrainian people like sports. As You know, Ukraine has one of the best boxing schools in the world with such athletes like Klitschko, Lomachenko, Usyk. The problem is with the economic situation. A lot of talented sportsmen stop their sport careers after they become 18, because they don’t have money for leaving and start working. If the athlete does not have a sponsor of some kind, they cannot become a big star in sports.”

As Blank suggests, the future is not always clear for promising young athletes approaching adulthood and with professional aspirations after crafting an efficient skill set as amateurs. Like many hotbeds of MMA and Olympic amateur sport, the future of would-be prospects can hinge on sustainability, on the economic landscape and extent of continued opportunity and pathways in sport.

By IMMAF.org lead writer, photographer: Jorden Curran

Murtaza Returns, Former Gold Medalist Back to Reclaim World Title in 2019

While no man was able to derail the momentum of light-heavyweight juggernaut, Murtaza Talha Ali, it was a hand injury requiring surgery that forced the undefeated 23-year-old out of action for over a year.

Since he charged to gold medals for Bahrain at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships and 2018 European Open, much has changed in the 205lb division, in the absence of its former ruler.

“My hand is good now,” he told IMMAF.org, “I did good rehabilitation in Bahrain with our team doctors. I’m punching, doing wrestling 100% now and starting my camp for Worlds.”

Following the amalgamation of the International MMA Federation (IMMAF) and World MMA Association (WMMAA), the first Unified Word Championships took place in 2018 with Murtaza forced to watch on as Russia dominated across the board.

“I think after WMMAA became part of us (IMMAF) it’s more competitive now, I think it’s very good for our sport,” Murtaza commented.

Magomed Shakhrudinov (pictured above) took dominance of the division to a new level at the 2018 Worlds, with three first round stoppages (1 TKO, 2 submissions) en route to the final where he bested team mate Ruslan Shidakov with a second round rear-naked-choke, as Russia took both the gold and silver medals at 205lbs.

Murtaza’s return drew closer, but was not soon enough for the 2019 European Open, taking place last June. Hosted in Rome, it was Russia’s 2018 junior world champion, Igor Glazkov, who transitioned flawlessly to the senior ranks, destroying all comers as he captured the continental title. Murtaza’s hold on the division was now fully broken.

In the latest Russian nationals and qualifying for the 2019 senior world championships, Shakhrudinov defeated Glazkov in the light-heavyweight final and thus will be Russia’s leading man at 205lbs once again.


In May, Murtaza watched on as Bahrain topped the 2019 Asian Open medal table.

While starved of competition for over a year, Bahrain’s top light-heavyweight product has seen the nation achieve retain place in the world team rankings following this year’s European open in Rome. Now, his contribution to the team will be reignited.

“I’m very hungry for fighting,” he stated. “I miss that feeling, to be inside cage. I Cannot wait.” The 2019 IMMAF – WMMAA World Championships take place from 11-16 November and are expected to once again to break records and further raise the bar for premier level amateur competition.

Murtaza’s heavy overhand-right and anvil-like top control brought great frustration to rivals across his 8-0 run from 2017-2018. Now, Murtaza’s greatest challenge to date awaits him upon returning to the IMMAF-WMMAA World Championships in November, where the division has further deepened and every triumph will count in the coveted national team rankings, where Bahrain sit in first place, hotly followed by a hellbent Team Russia, currently in second.

By IMMAF.org lead writer, photographer: Jorden Curran

IMMAF | WMMAA Amateur MMA Awards Return to Bahrain this November

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA) proudly announce the return of the Amateur MMA Awards to Bahrain.

The second iteration of the annual ceremony will take place on Thursday 14 November during the 2019 IMMAF | WMMAA Unified World Championships. 

The prestigious occasion will celebrate the achievements over the past year of amateur mixed martial artists, National Federations and those working to develop MMA as a globally recognised sport of excellence.

The invitation only, black-tie awards dinner is exclusively for IMMAF delegates, National Federation presidents, award nominees and special guests. 

Awards fall into three categories – those up for Member Vote, IMMAF / Partner Awards and those open for Public Vote.  Information is to follow on how MMA fans can cast their vote for the ‘Green Hill Performance of the Year’ and ‘SAFEJAWZ Golden Mouthguard’ awards, using social media. Nominees for Member Vote Awards are to be announced shortly.

AWARD CATEGORIES

Block A – Member Vote

To be voted on by IMMAF-WMMAA members in attendance at the 2018 World Championships during registration. Each nation will have ONE vote.

  • Best Female Athlete
  • Best Male Athlete
  • Best Junior Athlete of the Year
  • National Team of the Year

Block B – IMMAF / IMMAF Partner Awards

As elected by IMMAF and its committees, except where marked. Changing Lives Through MMA 

  • Official of the Year 
  • Cutperson of the Year 
  • Host Federation of the Year 
  • Most Proactive Federation in Coach Education and Training
  • Most Proactive Federation in Implementing the “Technical Progression Scheme”
  • MyNextMatch Award of Excellence (elected by MyNextMatch)

Block C – Public vote via Social Media

  • Green Hill Performance of the Year (for best performance in a single bout)
  • SafeJawz Golden Mouthguard Award

 

Will Norway Follow European Momentum Towards MMA Regulation?

A SPOTLIGHT ON THE RECOGNITION OF MMA IN EUROPE

By lead writer Jorden Curran

While the French Sports Minister’s plans to legalise MMA this year has been watched with keen interest, France is not the only country in which the sport’s ban is being upturned.

It was the breakthrough of a lifetime for Norway’s MMA community back in April, when the Norwegian MMA Federation (NMMAF) confirmed recognition for Amateur MMA under the Norwegian Sports Federation.

“This is great news for the sport of MMA, both as a recreational sport and for the athletes,” NMMAF President Henning Svendsen commented, earlier this year. “This will make it much more efficient to manage and evolve the sport in solid and secure way.”   

For years, Norway remained a universal holdout on the legalization of popular combat sport. MMA itself was not a targeted victim, with a blanket “knockout law” for all combat sport spanning four decades in addition to outright prohibition of professional boxing.

After a campaign fronted by undefeated pro boxing world champion and Norwegian sports icon, Cecilia Brækhus, Norway’s restrictive knockout law can now be lifted on a case-by-case basis, as of 2016 by the “knockout committee,” who may grant dispensation of the KO law.

With potential acceptance of MMA events on the horizon, the NMMAF attended parliament hearings that saw welcome changes to legislation that paved the way for boxing. However, the parliament process showed less consideration towards MMA. Instead, NMMAF turned to the National Sports Federation and overcame the umbrella body’s skepticism by laying out the clear divide between professional and amateur MMA.  

“We focused on MMA as a recreational and amateur sport, and that NMMAF primarily represented the vast majority of recreational athletes and amateurs,” NMMAF vice-president, Thomas Rye Eriksen explained. “This was a better tune for the sports federation which primarily was opposed to the commercialization and “demoralization” of MMA, and did not think this was compatible with Norwegian sports values.”

The strategy was successful; NMMAF had taken amateur MMA to official recognition and is now entitled to apply for KO law dispensation. Sports which have already secured exemption include karate, sanshou, taekwondo, and boxing, pro boxing and kickboxing. NMMAF is set to apply on behalf of sanctioned amateur MMA once standards can be agreed that are in line the international IMMAF – WMMAA unified amateur rule set.  

Today, a considerable job remains if Norway is to green-light the sport of MMA at the professional level, with minimum fight restrictions still imposed that prevent bouts taking place under standard professional rules. This includes the maximum length of a round being set at no more than 3 minutes, and while this poses no hindrance to boxing or amateur MMA, the widely used standard for a professional MMA round is 5 minutes. Knee and elbow strikes have also been prohibited for other sports, and so further parliament discussion is required with pro MMA still in the dark.  

However, similar to pro boxer Brækhus, surging UFC contender Jack Hermansson (pictured) may unknowingly find himself as the face who captures the attention of Norway’s government, as Eriksen explains.

“As Jack Hermansson, among others, are climbing the ranks in the UFC, professional MMA has received renewed attention in media and in the last 6 months we have been contacted by several politicians who want to front legalization of professional MMA. . It seems like the political landscape has changed over the few last years and it conceivable that we may see politicians call for full regulation of MMA in Norway.”

The UFC itself has a storied history of fighting for the acceptance of MMA in the United States, overcoming political interests and serving education to state leaders, one by one, until “Thank You NY State Legislature!” was tweeted by former UFC chairman and CEO, Lorenzo Fertitta in 2016, marking complete legalization of MMA across the USA. 

“We would welcome MMA as part of the political agenda,” Eriksen added. “We see the Swedish model of regulation as a pioneering model of how regulation should work. It is important that NMMAF does not turn into a voice of the pro sport, although we are here to facilitate amateur sport and recreational development for the vast majority; but at the same time we strongly feel that potential future regulation of pro-MMA should not be done outside the sports federation, but within.” 

Norway’s Scandinavian neighbors, Sweden narrowly avoided MMA being outlawed in 2006 upon concerns within the Swedish government, but of which resulted in sanctioning powers being granted to the Swedish MMA Federation (SMMAF). Similarly, France has made headlines in 2019 as the political blockade of MMA by influential figures was brought to an end by sports minister Roxana Mărăcineanu, who has mandated full regulation and acceptance of the sport:  A tender process is currently underway by which other national combat sports federations may bid for the opportunity to house MMA, in order to speed up the process of regulation and therefore legalisation. An announcement is expected from France in the coming months as to which federation will be mandated with the caretaker role for MMA

Norway’s progressiveness has shown a light to MMA at the national level, the country has set out on path towards proper regulation of a legitimate sport which echoes its American evolution, and closer to home within European counterparts where safety, education and liberation of athlete rights have prevailed

These developments look set to render Iceland as the sole, last, European nation in which MMA competition remains banned.