Headed by former Swedish MMA Federation Chairman and fighter August Wallen, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation has been created to further the development of MMA on an international scale by organizing and standardizing the sport around the world.
“It’s going to take a long time,” Wallen told Sherdog.com. “This is a project where the final goal of Olympic status is far in the distance. That could take 100 years, if you know what I mean. We are putting a lot of time into this, because it is a process that will take years and years.”
According to Wallen, the first step for the IMMAF is to facilitate the formation of a unified national federation for as many countries as possible. This presents several challenges, however, as some countries, like France, are devoid of such a body. Likewise, other nations, like Brazil, currently sport a handful of federations that operate independently.
The IMMAF then hopes to unite those national federations so that international amateur competitions may be held. Once this is accomplished, the IMMAF may then seek recognition from SportAccord, an international body that is currently comprised of 87 international sports federations, including the Federation Internationale de Basketball (FIBA), the International Boxing Association (AIBA) and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA).
“Our first job is to see that there are national federations that can sanction professional events,” said Wallen. “Once we have countries enough so that we are more or less worldwide, we can look into arranging international amateur events and, in the long run, hold amateur world championships. Once you hold regular international world championships, then you can search for recognition from the SportAccord. When you have that, you are a recognized sport.
“To be honest, starting the world championships doesn’t have to take that long,” he continued. “Within the first one to two years, we will focus on getting national federations going and getting as many countries as possible affiliated with the [IMMAF]. And I think that is going to actually be really easy. That’s not the challenge. The challenge is that we want to unite people.”
Wallen hopes that the IMMAF’s efforts will help to improve the overall safety of the sport worldwide.
“I think MMA developed kind of backwards. All other sports, more or less, start on the amateur level with people playing soccer, for instance, in their backyards,” said Wallen. “Then you get many teams in one city, and they complete, and then a city against a city and a country against a country. Then, when you get worldwide, you start a professional league. In MMA, the professional league has been the first thing, and now we’re looking at the amateur.
“It’s a challenge, but I think it is necessary to build a big pyramid with the safety ladder, so that someone can compete on a safe level,” he said. “There are world champions in other sports right now that can come in and compete [in professional MMA], but in the long run, I think we need really good youth training and competitions where you can develop skills in this sport from the start.”
Operating independently from professional promotions, the IMMAF has nevertheless received the verbal backing of the Las Vegas-based Ultimate Fighting Championship, which distributed a press release on Thursday detailing the promotion’s support.
“In order to maintain the successful growth of our sport, it is important to invest in resources that will develop and cultivate it at an amateur level,” said UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta in the official release. “Having an umbrella organization that will oversee and help build the sport on a global level will not only provide advanced and ever-improving safety standards but will also create a unified global model to help introduce the sport to new markets. It is our hope that it will also take us one step closer to witnessing the inclusion of the sport of MMA on the Olympic program.”