As the holiday season is now in full swing and a new year upon us, I can’t help but reflect on the tremendous progress we have made in 2017. From our modest beginnings 4 years ago to the national organization we have become, I sit in awe when I think of the people who have come together to make it all happen.
2017 saw a year full of unprecedented progress for UMMAF as the number of promotions we provide sanctioning services for has more than doubled. Our reach from coast to coast is evident with UMMAF recognition in such states as Virginia and Florida while we broaden our prospects in places like Tennessee and continuing sanctioning activities in Nevada, Missouri, Iowa, Washington State, Georgia and a few others that will be announced after January 1st.
Our largest area of growth in 2017 has been in the southeast portion of the country thanks to the tireless and selfless efforts of UMMAF SE Regional Representative and Board of Directors member, Justin Brown. Justin’s results driven mind, lead him to assemble a great team of officials, judges and other fight staff to effectively sanction safe events in that region. His efforts also led to the 2017 National Championships being held in Elizabethton, TN in partnership with Valor Fights, owned by Tim and Jamilee Loy. Justin’s efforts have also resulted in UMMAF representation in North Carolina and Alabama as we work to partner with those commissions and educate them on our platform and why our work is so important to our great sport. We have also seen a dramatic increase in our memberships out of this area as athletes and coaches have embraced our vision and the opportunities it can provide to them and their athletes. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the tireless efforts of our new Tennessee State Representative, Chandler Goins in his pursuit of expanding our sanctioning reach as I have just learned that his efforts have resulted in Shogun Fighting Championships coming aboard.
In the West, UMMAF continues it’s sanctioning activities with promotions such as World Fighting Championships, owned by longtime UMMAF promoter Matt McGovern and King of the Cage has dramatically increased the number of their UMMAF sanctioned events which just culminated in their 4th amateur world championships. Our UMMAF NW Regional Director Ralph Cook continues to pave the way forward in his region as we are currently working with the State of Oregon to open up opportunities there.
2017 also saw a resurgence of Team USA on the international level at the IMMAF World Championships held in Manama, Bahrain. Lead by coaches Robert Hulett and David “Bubby” Mitchell, our team brought 2 gold medals won by Benjamin Bennett and Quitin Thomas, and 2 bronze medals won by Sean Stebbins and David Evans back to the United States. The performance of our entire team brought the United states from 9th to 6th in the current IMMAF world rankings.
The past year also saw a partnership with the United States Fight League as the youth development arm of UMMAF to encourage youth pankration participation and develop our future athletes in a safe, controlled environment for competition that has been endorsed by state athletic commissions in California, Missouri and Florida where UMMAF assisted in the first youth event in that great state.
I would also like to thank the tireless efforts of Jennifer Larson, our Texas State Representative and Social Media Manager. Her content management has dramatically expanded our reach and interaction with the public. I want to also thank Mindaloo Lao-Scott, our trainer for Team USA. Her expertise in NRT therapy kept our team healthy throughout the IMMAF World Championships. Her partner in Bahrain, Eric Whittington kept the pictures and information coming from the tournament so we could keep the public informed in real time. Without this great group of people, none of this would be possible.
I would also like to thank our National Director and UMMAF Vice President Ryan Brueggeman for his steadfast efforts in leading this great team mentioned above. His vision for UMMAF in the future is far reaching, as he guides our day to day activities toward our ultimate goal of Olympic recognition, unified amateur rules and sanctioning as well as the continued education of our platform to coaches, athletes and government officials around the country.
As I look ahead to 2018 I cannot help but feel excited about our future. We already have a plethora of information to announce after the first of the year. Sanctioning contracts for 2018 events have been pouring in, our registration process for the 2018 National Amateur MMA Championships hosted by Midwest Fight League, has opened up and we look forward to hosting the first ever Youth Pankration Championship Tournament in partnership with the United States Fight League lead by Jon Frank. Our executive team already has travel plans to meet with government officials on the state and federal levels to expand our reach and goals and we get daily messages from interested parties on how they can join and help UMMAF.
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, KICK International looks forward to bringing the various disciplines of that great sport to the forefront once again.
None of these things would ever be possible without the help of our sponsors such as Catalyst Pain Solutions, EuroPacific, Steele Company, Golden Services group and MMA Fight Radio AM1060 in Phoenix, AZ and the ever expanding number of promotions that are seeking UMMAF sanctioning to ensure quality, safe and affordable sanctioning to help them become successful. Also, to our entire UMMAF team nationwide, your help, assistance and dedication to helping our non-profit organization has significantly enhanced our growth over the past year and I cannot thank you all enough for your support.
I want to wish you all a safe holiday season and we look forward to seeing everyone cageside in 2018!
Franklin Babcock III
President, UMMAF / KICK International