MMA's rival governing bodies amalgamate, with GAISF in sight
By Callum Murray
The UK-based International Mixed Martial Arts Federation and the Russia-based World Mixed Martial Arts Association, the rival governing bodies for the sport, have sealed plans to amalgamate, after the WMMAA’s membership agreed to the move at a general assembly today.
IMMAF’s members had already agreed to the move at its own assembly last month.
The sport has sought to bring its governance under one roof since it was told that this was a prerequisite for recognition by the Global Association of International Sports Federations, and ultimately for acceptance on to the programme of the Olympic Games.
Densign White, IMMAF’s chief executive, told Sportcal today: “Under the affiliation agreement, the two organisations become one over a period of time. It can’t happen before 2019 because some of our members’ terms don’t finish until then.”
The WMMAA’s membership comprises national governing bodies concentrated in Asia, eastern Europe and the Americas, while IMMAF is strong in western Europe in particular. White said that one of the advantages of a single organisation is that members will no longer be able to seek to evade membership conditions by playing off the two organisations against one another, because “this is [now] the only game in town.”
Under the amalgamation process, five of WMMAA’s board members are set to join IMMAF’s board, together with Vadim Finkelchtein, WMMAA’s president, who will become honorary president of the amalgamated federation, which is set to retain the IMMAF name.
However, WMMAA will retain its office in St Petersburg for the time being, in part because it is shared with M1, the professional MMA promoter.
In a statement, IMMAF said: “It is of key significance to MMA’s bid for sport recognition that one joint application will now be made to the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF – formerly SportAccord). Under GAISF criteria only one governance application can be made per sport, and so the amalgamation is expected to further qualify MMA’s bid.
"The agreement also strengthens MMA’s application by delivering the required number of an organisation’s member federations to be recognised by their sports ministry or national Olympic committee.”
In February, IMMAF launched legal action against the World Anti-Doping Agency in a court in Lausanne over WADA’s rejection of its application to become a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code, also a prerequisite to membership of GAISF.
IMMAF is partly funded by Endeavor (formerly WME-IMG), owner of UFC, the professional mixed martial arts series, and Endeavor is sponsoring the lawsuit, including paying the legal costs associated with hiring Swiss lawyers to conduct the legal challenge.
IMMAF applied to WADA to become a signatory to the code in June 2016, but, despite having been recognised as code-compliant, was turned down, on what White described as “political grounds.”
IMMAF’s application for membership of GAISF, was also rejected, “a totally unsatisfactory situation,” which, White said, left it with “no alternative but to take things to another level.”
Kerrith Brown, IMMAF’s president, said of the amalgamation of the two governing bodies: “The unification of WMMAA and IMMAF has been agreed by both organisations’ members for the betterment of the sport of MMA.
"As well as strengthening MMA’s bid for sport recognition by the Olympic movement, the move will bring benefits to the members of both organisations including combined championships and events, joint education courses for officials and a consolidation of resources which will in turn boost growth. IMMAF and WMMAA are both set to be bolstered by this agreement and we would like to thank both memberships for their visionary leadership in ratifying the agreement.”
Finkelchtein added: “I truly believe that the coming amalgamation will give a huge boost to the global development of MMA as a sport and it will bear positive influence even in those countries in which MMA is still forbidden. Joining forces will provide us with an opportunity to achieve recognition for MMA at every official level and to subsequently enter the Olympic Movement.
"I'm pleased that our organisations have similar goals and a shared vision for the acceptance of MMA into the Olympic Games for 2024 - 2028. This would not be possible without our cooperation, which I believe will be fruitful to the benefit of our beloved sport.”