Sports fans deserve to see MMA in the Olympics, says IMMAF Director Tom Madsen

Tom Madsen has been a Board Director of IMMAF since it was founded in 2012, with his national federation, the German Mixed Martial Arts Federation (GEMMAF), among IMMAF’s oldest members.

Madsen tells immaf.org why MMA should be in the Olympic Games and what it would mean for the sport.

Tom Madsen - IMMAF Board Director

Tom Madsen – IMMAF Board Director

Why should MMA be in the Olympics?

There is no doubt that in the original Olympics Games, “Pankration” (stand-up fighting with punches, kicks and take downs which then continued on the ground) was one of the most popular sports of all. Pankration has been lost from the modern Games, but it is obvious that its modern incarnation, MMA, remains of interest to mass audiences. MMA offers extra authenticity to the Olympics.

At the same time, the Olympics are evolving and trying to keep up with the development of society but the biggest martial art and fastest growing sport in the world is yet to be part of the Olympic program. MMA, in the way that IMMAF is presents it, brings a new perspective to what MMA can look like, and the sport has the power of attracting a greater number of participants into exciting activity away from playing computer games or merely being spectators.

IMMAF MMA will bring increased safety into the sport and present a regulated way to progress as a participant. Personal development and the entertainment of Olympic fans is a result for MMA competitors to aim at!

Most vitally, this sport is 100% real, is growing and will continue to grow. Sport spectators have the right to watch regulated MMA and the athletes have the right to access a safe pathway to the top of the sport.

What would Olympic inclusion mean for MMA?

When MMA becomes an Olympic sport, it will be easier to regulate the tournaments and create better safety for the athletes all over the world. This because the way of the sport will be defined. The Olympic stamp means access to more coach education and even more anti-doping education and testing. The contemporary sport is, despite its young age, already subjecting itself to research and analysing the effects of participation, so that it can continue to evolve the highest safety standards. Existing martial arts, both Olympic and non-Olympic, can benefit from our data.

On local a level inclusion will mean improved access to sponsorship, as the sport will become more accepted in the business world. Funding is important because the level of safety in training and during the matches is more readily affordable to athletes and their managers. Increased funding will also make the sport more international, as athletes will have more opportunity to travel and challenge themselves. Hence the level of skill and knowledge will increase all over the world.

Through Olympic acceptance, National MMA federations will be enabled to cooperate with other Olympic sports and gain better access to politicians who can help keep the sport clean. Currently many politicians try not to have an opinion or tend to follow the voices of MMA’s opponents, who are afraid of our fast growing sport and have chosen to spend time creating a picture of fear rather than trying to understand this complex sport. 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.

What would Olympic inclusion mean for MMA in your region?

Safety, regulation, progression and internationalisation. There are still too many “5 fights and I am pro” athletes in Germany, fighters who have little experience, coaches who are too eager to let their athletes fight in less than safe environments and lack of long term perspective for the athletes.

Cooperation with national Olympic organisations and national recognition will enable us to define rules and talent progression pathways within the sport. It will enable us to improve the level within the sport and assure safer rules and access to medical care for injuries sustained in training and during matches. It will open doors to further education of coaches to improve their knowledge of the sport, training, safeguarding, nutrition and psychological coaching.

On a national level, recognition would provide MMA athletes with a secured pathway into the sport and give significance to progression in training through an attractive end goal at the Amateur level. All of this would be easier to fulfil if MMA were to be a member of the Olympic family.

What would a 2028 Olympic debut mean personally to you?

It is one of the main goals of the IMMAF to be able to send MMA athletes to the Olympic games. Both our athletes and spectators around the world deserve this!

MMA is the number one sport in the world in terms of growth and complexity. There is no other sport with so many facets and so many demands on its athletes as MMA. These fine sportsmen and women surely deserve to be broadcast around the world and for their achievements to be shared with sports fans worldwide!

The IMMAF has worked very hard and against all odds to achieve this vision. As we’ve progressed we’ve always kept the Olympic goal,  as well as safety and athletic progression, in mind. This effort deserves a BIG win! I have always known that it is just a matter of time before the Olympic committee will see the light – if it be in 2028, that’s fine with me.

To unveil Olympic MMA in the USA would be to present it in the sport’s modern birthplace, from where it grew up and got big, the place with the highest density of MMA fans in world. The whole world deserves to watch this unique sport, well regulated and on the Olympic platform.

See you in Los Angeles 2028!

Tom Madsen (3rd right) with the IMMAF Board and CEO, Sofia 2017

Tom Madsen (3rd right) with the IMMAF Board and CEO, Sofia 2017

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