By Izzy Carnwath

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition graced the Olympic platform in Africa in a landmark first, as the sport was included as a demonstration discipline in the rescheduled 2023 African Games, just concluded in Accra, Ghana on 23 March.

Official MMA teams from 11 African nations went head-to-head between Sunday 10 and Monday 12: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote D`Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo, and Uganda. Some teams, notably the Sudanese, came against a backdrop of war and turmoil in their homelands having overcome unfathomable challenges to be there, exacerbated by the late organization of the event.

Under the auspices of the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA), the amateur MMA rules tournament sat among four demonstration disciplines in a program that showcased 27 sports in all. Eight of these were set to be holding qualifiers for the Olympic Games Paris 2024

“MMA in the African Games” aired from Accra’s iconic boxing arena, Bukom Stadium, home to other martial arts and combat sports in the program, including the Olympic boxing that followed. The evening event (to avoid the burnishing sun) in the open-air arena attracted a local and international audience as well as national media from across Africa.

The bouts were accompanied by vibrant African music, with celebratory dancing erupting among attendees between the bouts and before the medal ceremonies. Legendary Ghanian boxer and multiple-time world champion, Azuma Nelson, whose name is emblazoned on the arena walls, came to show his support for MMA in the games and praised the opportunity for MMA’s athletes in Africa:

How well do you really know your competitors?

Access the most comprehensive Company Profiles on the market, powered by GlobalData. Save hours of research. Gain competitive edge.

Company Profile – free sample

Thank you!

Your download email will arrive shortly

Not ready to buy yet? Download a free sample

We are confident about the unique quality of our Company Profiles. However, we want you to make the most beneficial decision for your business, so we offer a free sample that you can download by submitting the below form

By GlobalData
Visit our Privacy Policy for more information about our services, how we may use, process and share your personal data, including information of your rights in respect of your personal data and how you can unsubscribe from future marketing communications. Our services are intended for corporate subscribers and you warrant that the email address submitted is your corporate email address.

“Ninety-nine per cent of people who become champions come from poor backgrounds,” he said, “and so we fight to achieve our aim of becoming a champion, to make money for yourself, to make a name for yourself, to make money for your family and to make the nation proud.

“It’s good when I see the young ones coming up, they are trying to achieve something. We are happy to have them, to push them… It’s not about if they are boxing or karate… but any sport where people come out to achieve something… you help him, you push him.. to give him encouragement.”

The sentiment was echoed by participating national federation presidents in a lunch meeting with the GAMMA president Alexander Engelhardt and director general Peter Stafford on the Monday, as the significance of games inclusion for sport development was highlighted. The need for federations to unify in their support of each other, was also promoted, particularly with respect to the challenging political and economic contexts faced by many in Africa.

Ultimately, Nigeria proved victorious in topping the medals table with 5 gold, 4 silver and 2 bronze medals, followed by Mauritius in second place with 3 gold and 1 silver, and then: Togo (2, 0, 1), Egypt (1,1,1), Cote D’Ivoire (1,1,1), Ghana (0, 3, 5), Benin (0, 2, 1) and Burkina Faso (0,0,3). (See the medallists’ names listed below). Unfortunately, demonstration medals are not included in the official overall count, and there was some media attention as to how inclusion might have tipped the odds.

The 13th edition of the games was organized by the African Union (AU), the Association of National Olympic Committees of Africa (ANOCA), the Association of African Sports Confederations (AASC), and the Supreme Council for Sport in Africa (SCSA) providing an auspicious platform for a sport still seeking formal recognition at the international level.

GAMMA’s vision is to see mixed martial arts formally recognized as a sport internationally by the Olympic movement and for it to one day enter the Olympic Games. Acceptance into the African Games marked a significant milestone for the sport in its quest for recognition.

The achievement was no less an accolade to Africa’s MMA’s athletes and federations as the sport continues to develop and grow across the continent. Officially recognized in Africa by the AASC, GAMMA has 20 recognized and active member federations across Africa, including host federation the Ghanaian Mixed Martial Arts Association under the Ghana Olympic Committee.

Commenting previously on the addition of mixed martial arts to the program, president of the Ghana National Olympic Committee, Ben Nunoo Mensah said:

“Adding Mixed Martial Arts into the program of sports is a very positive sign that Africa is ready to welcome the newer sports and those sports that have a great global interest. There are many youngsters not only in Ghana, but across Africa that are participating in MMA and these games provide a great opportunity to witness the best athletes in Africa competing in this exciting sport.”

GAMMA president Alexander Engelhardt added: “MMA being welcomed into the Olympic program at the African Games is a major first for the sport. Not only is it a tribute to the development of MMA in Africa and the efforts of our members, but a fantastic platform for African MMA athletes and one which will no doubt spur further growth.”

Izzy Carnwath has specialized in public relations for mixed martial arts for almost 15 years, representing governing bodies, private promoters, and athletes. She provides independent communications and sport management services, with GAMMA as a client.