Senior Rankings Update: Movers and Shakers

The official amateur MMA world rankings saw their latest major update last month following the climax of the 2019 IMMAF – WMMAA European Open Championships in Rome.

Below, breaks down five of the biggest developments in the senior pound-for-pound and national team rankings, covering 800 athletes and over 60 international teams.

1. Axel Sola Clings on to No.1 Pound-for-Pound Spot

It’s been a rocky year for Frenchman Axel Sola as the world’s highest ranked athlete sees out his final year of amateur competition before aiming to turn pro. The two-time world silver medalist and former European Open gold medalist entered 2019 as the world-number-one, stepping up from welterweight to middleweight, and earned gold medals at the Oceania and Pan American Opens. However, a rare defeat for the 21-year-old at this year’s Asian Open served as his first setback before a hand injury saw him withdraw from the Africa Open final. After showcasing fine form to reach last month’s European Open semis, the injury resurfaced and Sola opted to take bronze with a view to being fully fit for the 2019 World Championships in November.

2. Bahrain Holds off Russia to Remain as No.1 Nation

Pictured: Bahrain’s Ramazan Gitinov takes a pivotal decision victory over Russia’s Evgeny Morozov in the men’s welterweight European Open final

After years of state investment dedicated to Bahrain’s national team and the sport’s domestic grass roots, Bahrain secured the coveted number-one spot this year in the IMMAF – WMMAA national team rankings, with vast success at the Asian and Africa Open Championships. Bahrain and Russia went head-to-head at the 2019 European Open with each nation earning 5 gold medals. While Russia topped the overall senior medal table, Team Bahrain had done enough to stick around as the world’s highest placed team heading into the 2019 World Championships back on home soil this coming November.

3. Sweden Drops from 3rd to 5th Place

After years of success for Team Sweden, the nation faces its greatest test to date in regaining podium prominence. In the wake of past champions and team icons having turned pro, Sweden’s new wave of talent have had it tough as more and more nations produce gold medal contenders. Top women’s strawweight Nina Back (pictured), perhaps Sweden’s strongest current performer, is the nation’s highest ranked athlete, the world and European silver medalist occupies 16th place in the pound-for-pound standings. It’s worth remembering that past Swedish greats such as Smajic, Holm, Ringblom and Akman all faced early defeats with the national team before going on to conquer their divisions.

4. Bulgaria Drops to 14th place

From 2015 to 2017 the Bulgarian national team was second only to Sweden as the Baltic nation hauled in the medals. However, Bulgaria’s most successful standouts, such as Ferdun Osmanov, Daniel Galabarov and Alexandra Toncheva, each moved on to fulfill professional aspirations. The Bulgarian MMA Federation, with alternate coaching staff, have been unable to maintain past standards of success and failed to earn a gold medal for the first time at the 2019 European Open, instead forced to settle for a trio of bronze medals with two-time world champion Delyan Georgiev also seeing his 28-0 win streak ended by a split-decision in the semi-finals. Nevertheless, the potential is there for Bulgaria to reawaken its world leading form as a nation that has shown itself to be a consistent producer of young talent.

5. Ukraine Breaks the Top 10, Storming to 6th Place

Up from 12th place in the national team rankings, Ukraine storms into the top 10 with flourishing form dating back to 2018 when men’s lightweight Pavel Senchenko won European Open gold, followed by Daria Samchik winning the women’s strawweight world title. Continuing the nation’s momentum, Ukraine placed 3rd in the senior European Open medal table, as Anastasiya Svetkivska claimed the women’s strawweight gold and Ata Atdayev upset Russia to take the men’s flyweight title. Supplemented by the likes of silver medalist Artem Afanasenko (pictured) eliminating reigning world champion Georgiev, Ukraine looks set to challenge the likes of Sweden and Kazakhstan at the 2019 World Championships for a place in the top 3.

Download respective senior and junior pound-for-pound/team rankings sheets HERE

By lead writer: Jorden Curran

IMMAF Board welcomes WMMAA representatives for first time

Denitza Batchvarova also welcomed for first face:face meetings as recently appointed board director

History was made at the 2019 European Open Championships last weekend, with the first joint meeting of the IMMAF board with WMMAA nominees to the board, ahead of elections at the November AGM in Bahrain.

Denitza Batchvarova, recently appointed non-executive director

This meeting in Rome was a decisive milestone in the World Governing Body’s quest for recognition, as it proved that one, legitimate and credible organisation has now replaced two rival bodies, which had been founded independently from within the MMA community. The companies merged as a legal entity in 2018, with WMMAA staff joining the IMMAF team.

IMMAF President Kerrith Brown said:

“I am delighted to see how our desire to overcome rivalry in the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has led to this day. Our brand is growing in strength through our drive for new members, our organisation of major championship events, our protocols that raise the bar for MMA safety. We are also constantly refining our regulatory developments and the implementation of progression pathways and educational licensing courses. Together, we have built a compelling case to gain GAISF Observer recognition.”

WMMAA President Vadim Finkelchtein said:

“As President of WMMAA, it’s an honour for my team to take part in our first joint meeting. I am confident that we will be able to take the sport of MMA to a new level internationally. By joining forces, we have become a truly global organisation and are offering world class services to our National Federations and Athletes. “

WMMAA President Vadim Finkelchtein and board nominee, Tatiana Klimenko

WMMAA Board members present were Vadim Finkelchtein, Viktor Frolov, Svetlana Odintsova, Galimzhan Yessenov, Tatiana Klimenko and Han Jiuli, and a wide ranging discussion led to a renewed commitment to providing world class representation and support for the athlete participants and National Federations of amateur Mixed Martial Arts.

Competition week for the European Championships also saw first face: face board meetings with recently appointed, non-executive director, Dentiza
. With a background in investment banking at Citigroup, Deni currently works as Senior Vice President of Strategy for UFC, overseeing corporate development, FP&A, research and analytics, and data management.

Goddard and Hardy Driving Newly Formed English MMA Association

Newly established organisation to develop mixed martial arts in England.

A new English Mixed Martial Arts Association, EMMAA, was launched today in Birmingham, UK. Led by international referee Marc Goddard, as President, a total of nine founding directors – including former UFC title challenger turned TV analyst Dan Hardy – have established EMMAA under the auspices of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF | WMMAA) to represent the national MMA community with the following purposes:The education, training and safeguarding of young people, competitors and coaches in MMA.

  • – To develop the amateur sport with the long-term goal of seeing MMA at the Olympic Games.
  • – To harness the benefits MMA has to offer wider society.
  • – To represent English MMA internationally with the development of a national team via domestic competition.
  • – The installation of a national rankings system.
  • – To promote a positive image of mixed martial arts.

The main objective of the Association is the development of MMA as a sport discipline. EMMAA shares the International Olympic Committee (IOC) belief in sport’s power to connect people. The organization will promote MMA as a sport for everyone, regardless of origin, social status, race or religion. The mission of the organization is education at a grass roots level in order to minimize risk in the discipline. The Olympic Spirit and fair play are the principles that the Association will instil in the youngest generation. Alongside sport development and regulation, the long-term goal is to see MMA into the Olympic Games.

The EMMAA Board is made up of:

  • – Marc Goddard, IMMAF Director of Regulatory Affairs
  • – Dan Hardy, the first Englishman to fight for a UFC world title
  • – Rosi Sexton, England’s first ever female UFC fighter
  • – Leon Roberts, International referee
  • – Paul Sutherland, MMA judge and coach
  • – Nick Peet, fight sports journalist and media consultant
  • – Martin Shotbolt, EMMAA lead for NGB registration
  • – Nigel von Sachsenburg, MBA, business consultant
  • – Dr Abad Ali, MBBS, MRCGP, DCH. DRCOG, Sports & Exercise diploma

EMMAA President Marc Goddard says:

“Personally, I am thrilled, excited and ambitious to share the future of mixed martial arts that we hold a collective responsibility to. The invitation and formation of the inaugural board in my eyes needs no introduction and we all share and hold the same passion for this wonderful sport. United we stand.”

The first activities of the English MMA Association will be:  

  • – Outreach to clubs, fighters, officials, doctors and all participants for national registration.
  • – Unification of processes for participant safety, medical issues, personnel, licensing, rules and regulation, equipment, etc.
  • – The launch of a series of amateur tournaments, culminating with the inaugural English national championships – EMMAA National Finals in 2020.
  • – Develop a relationship with Safe MMA around athlete health registration.
  • – Lobbying for the regulation of MMA licensing with Sport England.
  • – Building a cooperative relationship with the Team GB Olympic Committee.

Main picture: Leon Roberts, Dr Abad Ali, Martin Shotbolt, Marc Goddard, Nick Peet. Front row: Nigel von Sachsenburg, Paul Sutherland, Rosi Sexton, Dan Hardy.

For media interview enquiries contact:
Nick Peet
Writer, Broadcaster & Media Consultant

How Fading Stewardship of Polish MMA Opened the Door for Martin Lewandowski and MMA Polska Association

On June 19 the MMA Polska Association was publicly confirmed as having assumed affiliation status with IMMAF – WMMAA, replacing former IMMAF member, PLMMA, as Poland’s national regulator for the sport of Mixed Martial Arts under the unified world governing body.

After a promising start for PLMMA, who saw its national team acquire silver and bronze medals at the 2014 IMMAF World Championships, disappointed followed with a lack of understanding for medical processes implemented by IMMAF in 2015, resulting in Team Poland being the only nation disqualified from the 2015 European Open, due to complete absence of medical documents.

Concerns grew as awareness for basic member requirements continued in subsequent years.

PLMMA briefly regrouped with passionate individuals and officials joining the fold, but their attempts to bring credible structure were in vain. Without sponsor support and much needed leadership, little action was produced and communications from PLMMA dwindled to the point of silence.

The breaking point came in December of 2018 as PLMMA aligned with the Polish Federation of Kickboxing, wishing to change the organization to PZMMA (Polskie Zrzeszenie MMA). This process essentially hit the rest button on Poland’s IMMAF – WMMAA membership. Furthermore, IMMAF – WMMAA felt strongly that the size of MMA in Poland demands and deserves a stand alone national federation.

PLMMA representatives were absent from the last two IMMAF General Assemblies and the absence of communication regarding member issues, MMA sport development and actively following IMMAF-WMMAA strategy towards sports recognition, resulted in suspension.

Special measures were introduced to help support the administration for PLMMA, however, requirements were not met, instead continuing a lack of good governance and membership structure, in addition to minimal participation at international championships with solo athlete Eryk Walecki travelling alone to compete at the 2018 European Open, without coaches or national team assistance. Walecki won the junior featherweight division gold medal and was supported by coaches from Team Sweden (pictured below).

2018 Junior European Open champion Eryk Walecki alongside Team Sweden coaches Jorgen Hamberg (left) and Christer Ringblom (right).

It remained clear that Poland’s vast MMA community required firm leadership to unite all the groups. Several stakeholders approached IMMAF-WMMAA with concerns and expressed willingness to change the scenery of Polish MMA.

Interested parties approached IMMAF-WMMAA with a plan to work for government recognition with sport development and high championships participation, building a strong amateur base for the future of Polish MMA.

IMMAF-WMMAA selected to cooperate with MMA Polska and Martin Lewandowski in shared sporting values and a reliable pathway presenting Poland’s amateur athletes with the chance to medal and experience the Olympic atmosphere of IMMAF – WMMAA championships.

The MMA Polska Association was met with strong approval from the Board of IMMAF-WMMAA directors and provoked excitement among worldwide members.

2019 Euros: President’s Message

IMMAF President Kerrith Brown’s message to participants of the 2019 IMMAF | WMMAA European Championships, which concluded on Sunday in Rome:

On behalf of IMMAF | WMMAA I would like to thank all staff, officials, volunteers, Presidents and federations and all other participants of the 2019 European Championships.

I would also like to congratulate our coaches and athletes on their outstanding performances. It was an amazing tournament with some phenomenal talent.

The level in all areas has been out of this world, providing everything you would want from MMA as an Olympic Sport.

Great thanks is also due to our sponsors and particularly to FIGMMA, as the host federation: President Saverio Longo and Vice-President, Vito Paolillo, have been incredible.

I am grateful for all of your invaluable support of IMMAF’s vision and your contribution to its delivery. Your loyalty and commitment are greatly appreciated and without your hard work and determination the event would not have run so smoothly. It was through all of your efforts, we as a team delivered another successful event, and so congratulations to all for a job well done.

What has stood out to me during the Championships is the attitude, commitment, spirit and behaviour. Our athletes have shown respect, honour and integrity throughout the championship, which I am proud of.
I look forward to seeing you all again at the next event, the 2019 World Championships in November in Bahrain.
Once again, many thanks on behalf of all of us at IMMAF | WMMAA

Yours in MMA,

IMMAF President Kerrith Brown