The inaugural Oceania Open will be the start of another regional legacy

By lead writer, Jorden Curran

The region of Oceania will host its first international IMMAF championships in March when Australia launches the 2018 Oceania Open Championships in Melbourne.

For back-to-back years the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation of Australia (IMMAFA) has staged its annual national championships in collaboration with the Arnold Sports Festival, the biggest multi-sport event in the nation.

This year, the Arnold Sports Festival welcomes the Oceania Open with national teams from across the globe set to compete at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre from 16-18 March.

The inaugural Oceania Open will lay the foundations that establish the region as IMMAF’s latest continental hot-spot for top flight amateur competition, following in the footsteps of the the European, African and Asian Open Championships. Each championships brings its own local legacy as part of the commitment to build upon the event’s success, such as community involvement and furthering local exposure of the sport.

Chris Easley, originally from the UK, is a pioneer of MMA in New Zealand and certified IMMAF official. He believes that future youth participation is the focal point that will see MMA flourish and continue the legacy of pioneers from local nations such as Mark Hunt, Robert Whittaker and Jon Tuck. He believes that the youth of Oceania nations could change the face of MMA, due to the great cultural enthusiasm for athletic prowess beginning at the grass roots level.

In 2016 AIMMAA National Commissioner, Daniel Isaac, discussed some of the hurdles ahead of bringing top flight professional MMA to India. The AIMMAA chief highlighted that, despite huge potential within the 1 billion population, the challenge for any promoter is within drawing an audience that is captivated by cricket and Bollywood.

Easley recognizes that within nations such as New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji, much of the youth population are captivated in a similar way, drawn by default towards rugby. Nevertheless, the evolution of a continued campaign, spurred on by a prestigious competition platform, can be the turning point in tapping into this cultural love for contact sport.

“We want to do all we can for the youth within the world of mixed martial arts,” Easley stated, “whether they be participants or simply fans. We hope to bring free entry for school kids at future events and visit the local clubs and schools, host seminars and junior competitions under IMMAF’s upcoming modified rules for youths. Off the back of events such as the Oceania Open, we must continue this kind of momentum and work with our local TV and radio stations. We just need to be persistent in raising the profile of MMA to show parents that this is safe and something to get there kids into.”

The vision comes with good timing. Set for launch later this year, IMMAF continues work to establish pathways for competitive MMA for under 18’s, through tailored events for younger athletes of various age ranges.

The IMMAFA competition programme at the 2018 Arnold Sports Festival Australia will additionally include two further, amateur MMA tournaments:

– IMMAFA Australian ASF Championship
– IMMAFA Modified MMA ASF Championship (mat sport)

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