The times are changing. For a long time blamed as an undesirable in the international sports movement, the Mixed Martial Arts is gaining ground.
The growth of its workforce does not mark any downtime. Above all, the opposition shows signs of openness.
Norway and France, the last two countries where its practice was illegal, have chosen to lift their ban. The Norwegians jumped at the beginning of the year. The French should soon follow.
But the road remains long for the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF). The World Association of World Sports Federations (GAISF) still denies her recognition, claiming she is not a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Code. If not accepted by GAISF, IMMAF can not claim to be recognized by the IOC.
Present at the beginning of the month at SportAccord 2019, IMMAF President Kerrith Brown answered questions from FrancsJeux.
FrancsGeux: As you explain the refusal, year after year, the GAISF to recognize you as an international sports federation?
Kerrith Brown : The answer is purely political. Until last year, we thought that the MMA still had to progress in its governance, its programs, its anti-doping policy, to claim recognition of the international sports movement. We worked.
We followed one by one all the instructions formulated by GAISF. Today we are ticking all the boxes. But nothing advances. The truth is that MMA is disturbing other combat sports already present in institutions. Some of their leaders hold important positions at GAISF and WADA. They are pushing us to stay outside.
MMA would be the victim of a form of conspiracy of other sports combat?
Absolutely. In front of us, their leaders are one. They fear that we will compete with them, not only in terms of practitioners, but also commercially. We represent a danger because the interest in MMA is exploding around the world.
People are addicted. Young people, especially. If a vote was held today among the international federations on the question of our recognition, we would leave even before the vote with a disability of fifteen votes.
You are sometimes blamed for a lack of clarity on MMA governance. Several international organizations claim the authority …
Of course, but we are in a vicious circle. By refusing to recognize us, GAISF favors this situation because it gives ideas to other organizations. They say that they can in turn claim the governance of the MMA. GAISF reproaches us for a situation which it encourages by its refusal to accept us.
How to get out of such a stalemate?
By working even harder on our image. By continuing our lobbying effort. Even today, people too often associate amateur MMA with its professional side, the UFC (Ultimate fighting championship). The two worlds are very far apart.
At IMMAF, we have developed for several years programs of education, training of coaches, anti-doping … But the clichés die hard.
Roxana Maracineanu, the French Minister of Sports, announced at the beginning of April her intention to legalize the practice of MMA. Did you expect this advance?
We were not aware of Roxana Maracineanu’s position on the MMA. But we expected earlier legalization in France. We hoped for last fall. Laura Flessel, the former Sports Minister, was in favor.
She went to Canada to see how MMA is practiced and taught in clubs and gyms. Spoke with coaches. She also knew that the French were doing well, but they were forced by law to fight only abroad. She wanted to end the ban on MMA in France, but she resigned as minister.
The process of legalizing the practice of MMA in France should go through an intermediate stage, where the discipline will be headed by an already existing national federation.
Jean-Luc Rougé, the president of the French Judo Federation, has applied.
He has never hidden his opposition to the legalization of MMA …
It is true. But we have nothing against him, nor against the French Judo Federation. They did their job, they protect their territory. In principle, we would be very much in favor of judging the MMA.
The French federation is very powerful, it has an excellent training and education program. We could draw a big benefit. But there is no question that French judo takes the opportunity to change our rules. We do not want to see the Mixed Martial Arts arguing on a tatami. —- By FrancsJeux