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 Association 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 organization 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, lets work together.”

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):