04-12-2012, 07:08 AM
Status: Leben 'em dead and maimed
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: BC, Canada
| | International MMA Federation launches in Sweden, expected to receive UFC backing
International MMA Federation launches in Sweden, expected to receive UFC backing
International MMA Federation launches in Sweden, expected to receive UFC backing | MMAjunkie.com
A long-discussed nonprofit body aimed at furthering MMA around the globe, including recognition at the Olympics, is now a reality. |
International Mixed Martial Arts Federation officials today announced via press release the official launch of the new organization, which is based in Sweden and aims to assist in the governing of the amateur game.
The company's online home, IMMAF.org, outlines the federation's goals, which fall in line with some of those UFC exec Marc Ratner recently discussed on MMAjunkie.com Radio. And while it's not yet known exactly how much support the new organization will receive, MMAjunkie.com has confirmed that IMMAF officials will be on hand at today's UFC on FUEL TV 2 press conference in Stockholm.
Prior to the conference, the UFC issued a press release in support of the federation, with UFC Senior VP of Government and Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner calling it "long overdue." However, officials didn't specify exactly how the UFC will support the IMMAF.
"Mixed martial arts (MMA) is often referred to as the world's fastest growing sport," the company's official website reads. "Its popularity is constantly increasing and the possibilities for development of MMA are endless. In order to harness all this potential there is a need for a common point of reference, a democratic body to organize and drive the development of the sport on a worldwide basis.
"It is in response to this that the IMMAF was founded with the purpose to further the development and recognition of the sport of mixed martial arts, enabling international competition through the organization of national MMA federations around the world."
Swedish website Kimura.se first announced the formation of the new federation.
The IMMAF launches with an interim board of five members, which include president August Wallen the former head of the Swedish MMA Federation as well as Bertrand Amoussou, George Sallfeldt, Robbie Olivier, Carl Otto Knudsen and Tom Madsen. The federation's statutes express the board shall "consist of minimum five to maximum nine members."
The IMMAF also promises to remain a democratic, nonprofit organization.
"IMMAF is a democratic organization based on the foundation of open, honest and collaborative practices," the IMMAF's promise reads. "This applies to everything from elections and governance to everyday tasks and discourse.
"IMMAF is a nonprofit organization driven by the purpose of developing MMA as a sport, not the demands of return on investment. Our books are open for anyone to see."
Consistent application of rule sets and safety measures are among the IMMAF's key goals, as well as the establishment of potential world championships. But likely most-interesting to MMA fans is the the federation's vision to bring the sport the the Olympics.
"Our vision is for MMA to be recognized as a sport through the full membership of IMMAF in SportAccord and ultimately become an Olympic sport," the IMMAF's vision reads. "Becoming an Olympic sport is the ultimate achievement and highest formal recognition possible for any sport. Hence that is what the IMMAF will strive towards.
"A membership in SportAccord is in itself a sizable achievement that will provide MMA with a strong platform as well as take the sport one step closer to gaining Olympic status. We see that the challenges for MMA are great today, but so are the opportunities, and the IMMAF should not have any lesser ambition for MMA than this."
The IMMAF is expected to work with other governing bodies around the globe, as well as to offer support to countries hoping to form such committees. The IMMAF hopes to grow membership to 25 countries by the end of 2012.
Important to note, the established guidelines would apply only to amateur competitors unless the new committees elected to apply those rules to the professional ranks. Also of interest, IMMAF officials told MMAjunkie.com the federation is not interested in dictating a set of rules to follow but rather working with member committees to find "best practices" as the sport of MMA continues to develop.
The IMMAF is an autonomous, nonprofit organization and will be funded solely on donations. Initially there will be no fees for member federations.
"This is a very proud day for us," Wallen said in a official release. "The IMMAF is committed to be at the forefront of developing MMA as an international sport, from the grassroots level to the elite level, supporting the development of regulations and best practices on health, safety, youth involvement and more.
"Our vision is for MMA to be recognized as a sport through the full membership of IMMAF in SportAccord and for it to ultimately become an Olympic sport. I know many of us dedicated to MMA dream of the day that the sport has worldwide recognition and this is a first step towards making that happen."
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
04-12-2012, 11:33 AM
Status: Leben 'em dead and maimed
Join Date: Feb 2009
Location: BC, Canada
| | With UFC behind IMMAF, federation president outlines growth plan, Olympic potential
With UFC behind IMMAF, federation president outlines growth plan, Olympic potential | MMAjunkie.com
UFC exec Marshall Zelaznik praised the new organization for its efforts, and MMAjunkie.com took part in a Q&A session with IMMAF president August Wallen, the former head of the Swedish MMA Federation. Read on to find out more about the IMMAF's plans. |
"The UFC is behind and supports the work that August and his team are doing on the federation," Zelaznik said at today's press conference. "We're excited to be aligned with them in terms of their vision for what MMA can be in the world.
"It's a pretty significant moment, we believe, in the growth of this sport."
A long-discussed nonprofit body aimed at furthering MMA around the globe, the IMMAF is based in Sweden and promises to remain a democratic, nonprofit organization. Consistent application of rule sets and safety measures are among the IMMAF's key goals, as well as the establishment of potential world championships, and ultimately, official recognition of the sport from SportAccord, an umbrella organization established in 2009 that strives to "unite, support and promote its member international sports federations and organizations," according to its charter.
While the IMMAF would not have any direct involvement in the professional side of the sport, by establishing individual national federations, the company could aid the UFC in its global-expansion efforts.
"In the U.S., you have governments that regulate sport," Zelaznik explained. "In other parts of the world, the government also gets involved, but in many more parts of the world, you actually have these independent federations that are non-profit bodies that actually sort of manage the sport.
"In places like Europe or throughout Asia, where you don't have government oversight, these federations are very important. And so, when you see a group that develops a federation like they've done here, an international federation that we see is a well-intentioned, meaning group that is going out with a vision to organize, if you will, and benefit the entire sport the way a government might do it around the world, for us, we're hoping to just put a little wind in the sails of the international federation so they can go out and create this vision that they have as it relates to not only the amateur space, but also the development of oversight of a professional MMA."
Following today's pre-UFC on FUEL TV 2 press conference in Stockholm, MMAjunkie.com and two other reporters spoke with IMMAF president August Wallen. Here is the conversation: |
MMAjunkie.com: This will obviously be a tremendous undertaking. What's the motivation behind taking on such a huge project?
Wallen: I think it's a burning passion for the sport. We have been working to make it legal (in Sweden) and be able to ultimately hold UFC in the Ericsson Globe Arena. That's been a process in Sweden for many, many, many years. I would say we would like to keep this moving.
We get a lot of questions from other countries. Some countries, like Finland, for example, have an MMA federation that is more or less functioning. Most countries do not. If we want to see amateur or professional events in some countries, there needs to be national federations, and they need to be recognized by an international federation.
If you take France, for example, to get a permit in France, you need to have a national federation. To have a national federation that is recognized by the states to have a permit, you need to have it be recognized by an international federation. If there is no international federation, then it is impossible to get a permit. So you have that side. If you want to arrange a professional event in France, you need to have an international federation. Then we have to be recognized to be recognized as a sport by SportAccord to be a true sport. To do that, we have to have an international federation. We need to have international competitions, like a world championship.
MMAjunkie.com: Obviously the UFC is lending their support, but what does that actually mean in terms of you and the IMMAF? Is the UFC going to be offering any input into how you operate, how you move forward, or are they simply saying they're here if you need them?
Wallen: As it looks, they have functionaries that could help out. Marc Ratner, for example, is very, very, competent. In that sense, we'll have support and know-how, which is important. They have also said they will also make financial support, and then they'll endorse and support us, officially, and because it's the biggest and most dominating MMA promotion, that means a lot. All the fans and all the fighters are looking to the UFC.
We are totally autonomous, of course, and we take donations. We're not sponsored or anything. It's donations, and we handle the money according to our guidelines. But this means that we will be able to work faster and harder toward our goals. I think it's really what's needed right now.
Reporter: How does your federation relate to the UFC or the numerous promotions in Europe and elsewhere?
Wallen: Obviously, the IMMAF is democratic and non-profit. The association is registered in Sweden. Formally, we have no ties to any promotions whatsoever. Any promotion is very welcome to donate to the federation, which we hope that promotions that have passion for the sport will do. We think and hope and are very thankful that the UFC will do it.
Reporter: How hard is it going to be to accomplish all you want to?
Wallen: It's extremely hard. No one has been able to do it, so far. Since there is no true international federation right now, I think it has been really, really hard. I think some have tried, and we have to analyze why they failed. Maybe they didn't have the financial backup. Maybe they didn't have the correct people. Maybe they were into making profits. There are federations going out making press releases, but they actually come into this to make profit. This is independent, non-profit and democratic. That's very important.
We have to see. Our biggest challenge, I think, is to work with people and unite all the time.
Reporter: How many countries are involved right now?
Wallen: To start with, we start from scratch. Zero. Nothing. That's actually the purpose. We want to start from scratch because if we start with Brazil, Brazil has six federations right now. If we took one of those federations and took their side, we would fragment Brazil even worse. Italy, I think, has three federations. Sweden has one. Finland has one, but there is one called Shooto, as well, so there's more or less two. So instead of taking sides, instead of taking one of the Brazilian federations, we're going to sit down with all six and ask them, 'Could you, together please, could you form one Brazilian federation?'
So we start from scratch by taking no sides. Our goal is to unite and not fragment even worse. Today, we received an application from the Swedish MMA Federation that they want to join. We have contact with others, but they will have to announce that themselves, of course.
MMAjunkie.com: The creation of amateur world championships could potentially mean the extension of amateur careers. MMA supporters always talk about the safety of MMA vs. boxing, but in boxing, fighters have much longer amateur careers. Boxers also seem to show more signs of brain damage at the end of their careers. Have you given any thought to any bad this new system could create?
Wallen: You're thinking about doing many, many, many fights in a career. An amateur boxer may do 150 career fights. It's the same in Thai boxing. We could go into a discussion where we say, 'What's the more dangerous sport?' We have that discussion a lot in Sweden boxing compared to MMA or whatever. I think there are big differences between boxing and MMA.
If you look at how much time MMA fighters spend wrestling per minute, how many punches are delivered to the head per minute, how many fights do you have per year, and you take the amount of fights per year times the amount of punches oriented to the head over a year, and you compare that to another sport that no one mentioned, and you take the amount of impact toward the head during training and fighting, I think it's good. I don't think you should go from zero to the unified rules. I think it would be good if you started with submission wrestling and then amateur MMA. You have a solid amateur record of maybe 30 fights that's just an example and then you go into pro fighting.
I mean how many hockey players didn't play junior hockey? How many soccer pros did not play soccer before they became a pro? Formula 1 how many Formula 1 drivers never drove a car before? I think we need to build that, and of course we need to take all the safety into mind and really make a good investigation of the turnout. But I think this will make a big majority of fans and people who train MMA to be able to compete on their level, and I think that's important.
To get to be a recognized sport, you have to have a worldwide amateur circuit. That's what we have to have, and we have to have a world championship. Go to SportAccord and say, 'Hey, we have a lot of professional promotions.' Out of their perspective, that is not a sport. The sport of MMA is regulated by a non-profit federation. Then, of course, there can be professional promotions and circuits, but that's something else.
Reporter: How do you deal with the different sets of rules between different organizations?
Wallen: In the long-run, I think it's inevitable that it has to be streamlined in the long-run. But our goal is not to go in to any country and say, 'You've got to do this or that.' How you have amateur MMA in Finland, I mean that is up to the Finnish federation, I would say, and their legal situation if you need to have permits or whatever. The thing is, when we have a world championship, then we must have the best possible set of rules. That has to build on the experience of those who have arranged amateur MMA.
We can see in Finland, how many knockouts did you have? How many injuries? What's the turnout? Sweden has a lot of amateur fights now. How did they turn out? How are the amateur fights in the U.K.? When we have a set of rules for a world championship, when we have that, I think most countries will I would start to change and adjust to that set of rules. That's not something you should force. You use the experience from Finland, Sweden, U.K., wherever there is amateur fights, and you use that experience to build a good set of rules that we can unite on an international level.
If you don't want to keep your set of rules in Finland and then you have to change when you come to the world championships, or you want to use the same rules all over, that's up to the international federations. I don't see that we should force anyone to do anything. We want to use the experience.
Reporter: There are other federations, some from wrestling and kickboxing, that have launched international MMA federations. Is that an issue?
Wallen: I know that there are many trying to get into this. I know that there is a big kickboxing organization in the world, and they also founded an MMA federation. The thing is, most people in that federation are not doing MMA. There are federations of other sports, and they want to include MMA. But I think it's important that those who work with an international MMA federation and those that represent MMA in a country are doing MMA that their interest is MMA, that their total focus is MMA. I believe that is important, that it's someone with passion and interest in MMA not someone that's doing another sport that's maybe shrinking slowly that's interested in adopting something else to get maybe more members or more support from the International Olympic Committee or whatever.
I think that this sport, MMA, deserves its own federation and that the people with passion for this sport are the one engaged in it. That's my belief.
Reporter: You've openly discussed the Olympics. When could that be possible?
Wallen: In the long-run, I think it's the dream of any athlete to be able to compete in the Olympics. In the long-run, I think it's our goal to put MMA in the Olympics. But that's a long way down the road. What we want to do, at least this year, is totally focus on administration and getting national federations in as many countries as possible and get national representatives so we can form federations quickly. When we have enough countries, I think beginning international competitions is the next step. When we have good world championships, then even more people will want to join, I think.
When we have national federations, membership federations all around the world, and we have world championships that are good, then we can apply for SportAccord not until then. We need to be worldwide with worldwide competition to apply for SportAccord. When we are there, then you can start looking at the Olympics, but that's all the way down the road.
But you talk to any athlete and say, 'Would you like to compete in the Olympics?' who would say no? That's something we have to have as a vision down the line, but getting a lot of national federations, starting world championships, applying for SportAccord, that's things we can control. When you're going into the Olympics, you have to compete with other sports that want to go into the Olympics. We need to find a country that would like to have MMA as a demonstration sport at the Olympics when they organize it. Which countries would be interested in doing that? Then it comes down to, 'OK, which country will get the next Olympics? Please let it be
.' It's things out of our control. We can do our best to be ready for it, but it's things out of our control. We're going to focus on the things that are in our control right now.
MMAjunkie.com: You've stated that you're not taking sanctioning fees right now, but how long is that sustainable? Can you survive off of donations alone? Doesn't there have to be some financial income at some point?
Wallen: Right now, we do all the work pro bono, and we're looking into donations. I think the UFC will donate, and I hope that others will donate, as well. When we have the first general assembly, it will be up to the member countries to decide if each country should pay a membership fee and so on. That's not something that we want to decide for them. They should decide. The more we can keep it down, the better, I think.
There are a lot of federations that want to get sanctioning fees and this and that. This is 100 percent passion for the sport. We're looking into the way other world federations are running sport, and we think that's MMA deserves.
Nothing in all the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
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