By : Dane McGuire, IMMAF U.S. Correspondent
With 2017 now behind us all, it’s safe to say that perhaps the biggest news item of the year concerning IMMAF was the announcement that the 2028 Summer Olympics will be hosted by the city of Los Angeles. This will also be where MMA could debut as an Olympic demonstration sport thanks to California’s long history of supporting mixed martial arts.
However, 2017 as a whole was a great year for the U.S. as the USA Mixed Martial Arts Kick International Federation (UMMAF) was able to field a nine-person Team USA at the IMMAF World Championships in Bahrain in November. The valiant squad brought back four medals in total thanks to bronze medalist David Evans (originally of Virginia,) Sean Stebbins of Minnesota and gold medalists Quitin Thomas of South Carolina and Benjamin Bennett originally of Alaska.
The performance put the U.S. in 3rd out of 48 competing nations and sixth in the overall IMMAF team rankings with 3,994 points as of January 3, 2018.
Prior to becoming a world champion, Thomas said of his experience becoming a UMMAF national champion and his IMMAF experience thus far:
“It was a dream come true to do something like that. I wrestled through high school so I was prepared for tournament style competition. It helped me relax and not be under shock because I felt I had been there before in a way. I enjoyed myself. Definitely a memory and I won’t ever forget. I felt like I have arrived as they announced my name…To just experience that type of format and competition already through IMMAF is truly a dream come true.”
While Bennett could not be reached for comment during the Worlds competition, it was reported by IMMAF shortly after that professional offers are “pouring in.” Team USA head coach Robert Hullett and coach Bubby Mitchell were very pleased with the efforts of the team this year. Coach Hulett has hopes to bring home six or more medals when the event returns to Bahrain in 2018.
Aside from the World Championships, the U.S. were also represented internationally by South Carolina’s Hannah Scoggins at the Asian Open Championship held in Singapore over the summer. “The Rock” captured a gold medal of her own in just her first IMMAF event, defeating Kazakhstan’s Ayan Tursyn at 1:49 of the second round of their contest.
While Scoggins was not able to join the national team in Bahrain for Worlds as she had hoped due to scheduling issues, she did say at the time that she desired to do so.
UMMAF as an Organization in 2017
UMMAF made headlines with the announcement that they had reached an agreement for the United States Fight League (USFL) to become their youth development arm, a requirement the IMMAF as a whole will have put in place prior to 2028 for Olympic qualification (see IMMAF pathway below.)
Southeast Regional Director Justin Brown said, “UMMAF has grown a great deal this year not only in events sanctioned but also in geographical area we cover. We sanctioned just under 100 events this year in total. In addition to the regulatory growth, we had a successful National Championship Tournament in Elizabethton, Tennessee hosted by Valor Fights which is the first time bringing the event to the southeastern U.S.”
Both UMMAF and IMMAF have big events on the horizon in the coming months of 2018 as Team USA has moved the National Championships to February to better allow their athletes to compete internationally through the year. The IMMAF calendar now includes the 2018 Oceania Open in March while UMMAF will venture into Michigan that same month.
The Oceania Open taking place in Australia will introduce two weight divisions new to IMMAF competition, Women’s Atomweight (105 lb) and Men’s Strawweight (115 lbs.)
Domestically, UMMAF President Frank Babcock also announced the following in a statement dated December 14:
“2018 will also see a resurgence of the KICK International brand as we look to reinsert ourselves into the kickboxing sanctioning market in a big way starting in the Southeast market. KICK International is the parent organization of UMMAF. As the sport of kickboxing has once again become popular and KICK International looks forward to bringing the various disciplines of that great sport to the forefront once again.”
Registration for the 2018 UMMAF National Championships is now open and the event takes place February 1-3, 2018 at the Isle of Capri Casino in Boonville, Missouri. Register for the event here. Youth competitors please visit the USFL website’s Nationals page here for more information.