How Diversity Dominated SIGA’s General Assembly; an Opportunity for Change in Sport

Report by IMMAF Brand, Commercial & Communications Director Isobel Carnwath

Something is blowing in the wind right now; and that appetite for cultural change was no less apparent than at the recent Sport Integrity Global Alliance Forum and General Assembly in Rome (29 – 30 January). The iconic buildings of the Italian National Olympic Committee (CONI) played host to both events, and most significantly to SIGA’s first Council elections.

Launched in 2016, against the backdrop of well publicised corruption in sport and a crisis in public confidence, SIGA has in its formative phase rallied an impressive roster of names with its battle cry to end corruption in the sector. SIGA’s members and supporters include the likes of Mastercard, Deloitte, the European Professional Football Leagues, Dow Jones, PwC, the World Bank and the Commonwealth Games Federation among others. SIGA has even secured the blessing of His Holiness Pope Francis, as a papal message was delivered to delegates via Monsignor Melchor Sánchez de Toca y Alameda, Undersecretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture.

(Ironically) at the foot of CONI’s fascist, Mussolini murals of the 1930s (main picture), SIGA’s members seemed more readily stirred than even its founders had anticipated in their collective push for better diversity through the echelons of the emerging movement. In the wake of #MeToo which seems to have sparked a flame for naming an elephant in the room, SIGA members ran the torch all the way home.

Densign SofiaSIGA has from the outset been broad in its inclusion of non-Olympic and unrecognised sports, a mark of its commitment to challenging to the ‘Old Boys’ network. Indeed, the newly elected Council includes two representatives of unrecognised governing bodies, International Mixed Martial Arts Federation CEO Densign White (pictured) and E-Sports Integrity Commissioner, Ian Smith. White also stands as current Chairman of Sporting Equals, which works to promote representation of disadvantaged Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic communities in UK sport.

SIGA has too demonstrated its desire to give a platform to younger voices. In the latter part of 2017, SIGA added Youth Protection to its pillars of Good Governance, Financial Integrity and Betting Integrity. Young representatives invited to speak at the Integrity Forum included Special Olympic Athlete Gilmour Borg and SIGA’s Millennials Matter representative, Jade Beason.

However, SIGA’s members demanded deeper inclusivity in the appointment of its inaugural, elected Council and in the prioritisation of the organisation’s activities for 2018.

SIGA Council Member, Brian Lewis (CANOC)

SIGA Council Member, Brian Lewis (CANOC)

Ad Interim (and now elected) Council Member Brian Lewis of the Caribbean Association of National Olympic Committees was instrumental in highlighting the need for a more diverse representation of both gender and ethnicity in SIGA. He cast the organisation’s ultimate chances of success as interwoven with its capacity for broader cultural engagement. He also asserted that SIGA cannot afford to become an elite club that excludes the poor. In doing so, he set the tone.

Going into the General Assembly, thirteen men had applied for Council roles. The absence of women as nominees generated vocal calls from members for gender diversity, led affirmingly by male proposers. In response, Chairman Franco Frattini recommended and co-opted, on-the-spot, four female members to the council – Angela Melo (UNESCO), Salam Al Shawa (Qatar Airways), Cindy McCain (McCain Institute) and Shellie Pfohl (US Center for SafeSport), which in turn increased the Council’s ethnic mix. It was further agreed that Youth representatives should be recruited to the Council and to each of the SIGA panels. Frattini fairly pointed out to the membership its collective responsibility for nominating applicants for SIGA roles.

Salam Al Shawa, SIGA Council Member

SIGA Council Member,Salam Al Shawa (Qatar Airways)

Other proposed initiatives include a SIGA roadshow in 2018 to take the integrity issue out to a pancontinental audience, and Chairman Frattini also committed to a review of SIGA’s membership and revenue structures.

Diversity is of course a broad canvas, and delivering equal representation across gender, ethnicity, culture, age and economic status can be challenging. Meanwhile, the most immediate challenge to SIGA’s mission is the same as of almost any start-up –  consolidation of funding to build an administrative team armed to square with the colossal task ahead. But if the team, led by new CEO Emanuel Macedo de Medeiros, can effectively harness this impetus it could initiate a far deeper change in sports culture:

The idealisation of amateur sport originated in European class systems, its administration has roots in elite British boarding schools and these values and structures were proliferated through the Empire. A movement born now has unprecedented potential to challenge deeply entrenched values in the sporting establishment and to maybe even pioneer its reconstruction.

For information about the Sport Integrity Global Alliance go to
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FIGMMA's Saverio Longo & Vito Paollilo with IMMAF's Isobel Carnwath & Gosha Malik at the SIGA GA

Representing MMA at the SIGA GA: FIGMMA’s Saverio Longo & Vito Paollilo with IMMAF’s Isobel Carnwath & Gosha Malik

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Statement from IMMAA (Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association) in response to comments from Shane Ross TD Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport on regulation of Mixed Martial Arts in Ireland

9th February 2018: Today the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross publicly accused the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association of “dragging its feet” in the establishment of appropriate governance and safety standards for the sport of MMA. He asked of IMMAA, what is taking so long?

It is therefore in the public’s interest that IMMAA refutes this accusation openly. Unfortunately, the Minister’s remarks can only be the result of misinformation.

Indeed, IMMAA proactively fulfils its duties as the national governing body for Irish MMA despite lack of official recognition, the main barrier to recognition being administrative.

When IMMAA (formerly IAPA) applied to Sport Ireland for official recognition in 2016, it was informed as per Sport Ireland procedure that it would need three years of financial transactions before it could be recognised. It is beyond IMMAA’s powers to speed up bureaucratic process or to grant itself legal mandate to enforce its regulations. In spite of that, Irish MMA’s 100% voluntary adherence to IMMAA protocol since the organisation’s establishment in April 2016 proves the commitment of Ireland’s MMA leaders to establishing appropriate governance and safety standards in the sport of MMA, against all odds and in the face of opposition.

Since the tragic passing of Joao Carvalho, every MMA promoter in Ireland has voluntarily worked to implement IMMAA’s stringent safety protocol, which includes the independent, medical preclearance services of voluntary organisation, Safe MMA. This can be demonstrated by medical records from all those events. In addition, all events have been commissioned and officiated by IMMAA officials to ensure safety standards are adhered to.

It is worth noting that IMMAA’s amateur MMA safety standards already far exceed those of any other amateur martial art/combat sport, and our professional requirements are comparable with those of professional boxing. The third party medical preclearance and advisory services implemented by IMMAA are unique in sport; and Irish MMA under IMMAA can reasonably boast the most advanced medical protocols in the world for MMA, which it has sustained for over 18 months without any legal mandate. International promoters holding arena events in Ireland have also complied with the standards set and adopted by the Irish MMA community under IMMAA.

Further to this, in line with the IABA (Boxing), the IAWA (wrestling), the IJA (Judo) and Kickboxing Ireland, IMMAA has secured dedicated insurance for its member clubs. IMMAA successfully petitioned the Garda for the mandate to vet its members despite its lack of recognition so that now MMA coaches can be fully vetted. IMMAA members also became the first coaches anywhere in the world to be awarded MMA coaching licenses by our international association, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation. Self-funding Irish MMA athletes and coaches have won World and Continental Championship medals for their country under IMMAA but remain largely unacknowledged.

It has even been asserted that IMMAA is not a legal entity, when this is simply not true. IMMAA is a limited company registered as “NGB IMMAA” with the CRO (company number: 598102).

It is solely the commitment and hard work of IMMAA’s voluntary committee members and the Irish MMA community that has made all of the above possible.

Minister, IMMAA fully agrees with you that the recognition and regulation of MMA should not take so long, and we would welcome a meeting to discuss how the protection and governance of MMA’s participants can be most quickly progressed in Ireland.


About IMMAA:

The Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) is the governing body for the sport of MMA in the Republic of Ireland under the International Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAF)

About Safe MMA:

SAFE MMA is a non profit organisation established to improve the safety of MMA fighters in the UK and Ireland. Under the Safe MMA banner, the medical group provides a secure, centralised and confidential database for fighter medical records; and coordinates affordable, standardised blood and medical tests for all registered fighters. Additionally, SAFE MMA members have access to independent advice from medical specialists.


2015 IMMAF world champion Minna Grusander joins Invicta, set for March 24 debut

Former IMMAF world champion Minna Grusander has officially joined Invicta Fighting Championships, the world’s leading all-Women’s MMA promotion, reported by

In 2015 Grusander defeated three opponents at the IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas, USA, claiming the Women’s Strawweight gold medal for Finland before turning professional later that year.

28-year-old “Brutsku” has since accumulated an impressive 5-1 pro record, catching the eye of Invicta head Shannon Knapp.

Grusander’s sole loss came at the hands of now UFC contender Syuri Kondo (6-0), who secured a unanimous decision win in their headline encounter at Pancrase 284 in Japan. Since then, the Finn is on a streak of three victories, each triumph being secured via stoppage.

At Invicta FC 28: Jandiroba vs. Morandin, Grusander takes on 29-year-old Brazilian Fernanda Priscila (2-1), taking place at the Union Event Center in Salk Lake City, Utah. The event will be broadcast via UFC Fight Pass.

Invicta 28

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IMMAF President urges GAISF to work with IMMAF on a ‘united front’

Pictured: IMMAF President Kerrith Brown at the 2017 IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA

By lead writer, Jorden Curran

For years now, MMA has been widely credited as ‘the world’s fastest growing sport’. This holds true today and it will not cease, regardless of recognition, the sport is not going away, it will not slow down and it will not stay quiet.

For the Global Alliance of International Sports Federations (GAISF), it is in their best interest for IMMAF to be granted a seat at the table to ensure that MMA, like any other sport, is properly developed. “We want to be united,” is the message from IMMAF President Kerrith Brown who urges GAISF to work with, and not to ignore, the sport of MMA.

Behind the scenes of IMMAF’s bid for recognition under GAISF – the umbrella organisation for all international sports federations – political hurdles are in place, erected by governing bodies representing some of the core disciplines of mixed martial arts. International media questioned this political process last year following IMMAF’s rejected application to become a signatory to the WADA code, an outcome that is understood to have been influenced by outside interference from GAISF (formerly known as Sport Accord).

“MMA is seen by some individual disciplines as a threat to their prominence within the Olympic community. That is the motivation of any argument presented against us, but it is the wrong perception. We pose no threat.”

On the contrary, it is in MMA’s own best interest to see that all martial arts disciplines continue to thrive: “We want to work with you,” the IMMAF President expressed, “MMA can be embraced by core martial arts as a valuable platform. 

“GAISF is duty bound to not shy away from sport development. It is the responsibly of each governing body to look after and inspire its athletes and veterans. This includes progression, and that’s where MMA comes in – this sport offers a tremendous pathway to martial artists and it is one that pays great homage to athletes’ roots.”

The simple fact is that, for martial arts without a prominent professional platform, their competitors’ careers will come to a premature end, and with it, their potential for continued success – this being a distinguishing outcome for a great number of the world’s elite amateur wrestlers, for example, who will find their wrestling pathway coming to an abrupt end with their collegiate tenure, or even post Olympics – wrestling’s pinnacle – where the average age of a Male wrestler is just 25 (26 for Females).*

Kerrith Brown, himself a judoka and bronze medalist of the 1984 L.A. Olympics, highlights former UFC champion Ronda Rousey as a star example: “Through her persistence, Ronda has shown that life continues after judo, I think she is a fantastic example.

“Some may go on to coach or find work within the sport, but the reality is that most will not have a future within the discipline they have dedicated their life to. At IMMAF, we feel a responsibility to provide a future pathway.

“Ronda forced judo to the forefront of MMA as an incredible and effective art form. I have no doubt that judo benefits from Ronda’s MMA triumph and for that both sports should be very proud.”

Rousey is just one example of this progression template, and it is set to be mirrored by double Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison as the American judo icon prepares to make her 2018 MMA debut.

“Ronda left judo as an outsider and MMA gave her a platform to showcase her skills and not fade into obscurity. She continued to put food on the table doing what she loves and even transcended beyond this into wider entertainment, all as an extension from judo. There are martial artists out there capable of incredible achievement just the same.

“As the governing body for MMA, IMMAF champions the same good values and policies of all accepted combat sports under the GAISF umbrella.”

Whether they are Olympic veterans, national, collegiate or local athletes, martial arts competitors have an opportunity in MMA. The career lifespan of talented martial artists need not be endangered. It would be a disservice on behalf of any governing body to deny the endorsement of a future for their veterans.

In July of 2017 IMMAF CEO Densign White revealed that IMMAF anticipates to be in line for a GAISF Congress vote in 2019 – read more HERE.

*Average age of Olympians by sport (London 2012):

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The International Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAF) is proud to accept the membership of the Indonesia Committee for Martial Art Sports, known as KOBI (Komite Olahraga Beladiri Indonesia).

KOBI was established in Jakarta, Indonesia, on 17 November 2015 for the coordination and development of Indonesian MMA at regional, national and international levels. KOBI is a member of the Indonesian Professional Sports Agency (BOPI) under the national Ministry of Youth and Sports, a body mandated to supervise and commission all professional sports activity in the country, including MMA.

With 70 registered MMA clubs, KOBI has administrative representation at national, provincial and district levels. The federation managed and sanctioned more than 80 national bouts in Indonesia in 2016, and over 200 national bouts in 2017. KOBI has also educated and licensed more than 50 referees at nationwide training camps.

ONE PRIDE, sanctioned by KOBI and broadcast on tvOne (the country’s largest sports television broadcaster), has made its mark as Indonesia’s flagship MMA platform. Its first audition in January 2016, drew 165 competitors, while its third in February 2017 attracted as many as 488, marking significant growth. 1000 MMA athletes in total have been auditioned for ONE PRIDE, and KOBI estimates a total of 10,000 MMA participants across Indonesia.

Headed by Chief Executive, Mr. Anindra Ardiansyah Bakrie, KOBI issued the following statement:

“KOBI believes that MMA competition can play a leading role in forming the physical and spiritual character of a nation. Therefore, KOBI is committed to supporting government policy and programmes that harness the social benefits of MMA in Indonesia. Indonesia has a rich history in Martial Arts, and KOBI intends to build on this strong platform to improve the visibility, acceptance and grass root support that is aimed at fostering a healthy environment for MMA Competition Nationwide”

IMMAF Member Services Manager, Gosha Malik, commented:

“We are proud to welcome KOBI to the IMMAF family. It is a great enabler for the federation that it is recognised and empowered by Indonesia’s Ministry of Youth and Sports. This has already helped bring about impressive progress in the development of MMA in the country. I look forward to a fruitful working relationship.”

IMMAF President Kerrith Brown added:

“In embracing KOBI, IMMAF welcomes its 14th representative in Asia – a hugely fertile region for the growth of MMA. With IMMAF’s Asian Open, first Junior World Championships and 2018 World Championships all taking place on the continent this year, I anticipate a strong Team Indonesia making its debut on the IMMAF platform. I look forward to KOBI’s valuable participation in the IMMAF movement.”