IMMAF Amateur Eligibility Criteria for MMA Athletes

IMMAF Amateur Eligibility Criteria for MMA Athletes

IMMAF Amateur Eligibility Criteria for MMA Athletes

In response to queries about eligibility criteria for athletes taking part in IMMAF Amateur MMA competitions, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) has reconfirmed its position regarding its definition of Amateur Athletes.

Amateur MMA competition forms a key stage of IMMAF’s Progression Pathway for participants of MMA, as IMMAF works to implement safe progression through the sport from the grassroots up to the professional level worldwide. Correct categorisation of competitors is considered key to competitor safety in a contact sport that first developed outside of regulatory structures and which shows wide variance in skill level between regions.

As the rules have recently been misquoted by some organisations, for clarification please observe the criteria below:


IMMAF Championship competitions are open to Amateur athletes only, i.e. not athletes who have competed at a professional level.

The IMMAF considers an athlete to be on a professional level and thus not eligible for participation if he/she meets any one of the following criteria:

  1. holds a Professional MMA or professional combat sports license issued by any sanctioning body
  2. is under contract with a Professional MMA or professional combat sport promotion
  3. has received a fee for participating in an MMA or professional combat sports match
  4. has participated in a professional MMA match under the Unified Rules of MMA or equivalent in the country where the bout took place
  5. has competed against an opponent with a Professional MMA record at the time the bout took place
  6. has a Professional MMA fight record published anywhere*

*In relation to (vi), IMMAF has to-date given extensive support to member federations in verifying records that have been notated incorrectly by independent record-keeping sites. In 2017 the onus will be on National Federations to ensure that all athletes are compliant to the rule prior to registration for competition, unless a special case has been put forward for review.

National Amateur criteria does not hold for IMMAF international competition if it does not conform to the above stipulations. Where national regulation differs from IMMAF’s, the national federation remains responsible for making sure only Amateurs are entered into IMMAF competitions.


The IMMAF, the host national governing body and promoter (where applicable) will review applications and make necessary background checks. In some countries (e.g. USA), athletic commissions or other government agencies may also carry out background checks according to local jurisdiction.

IMMAF CEO Densign White commented:

“When IMMAF held its inaugural world championships in 2014 in Las Vegas, there was no existing international standard for Amateur MMA rules. It therefore proved necessary that athlete’s historic records were viewed by IMMAF with respect to the countries in which bouts took place and cases presented to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Regional rulesets included French Pankration, Italian FILA rules matches, Finnish B-Class and UK Semi-Pro among others. IMMAF fine-tuned its definition of an Amateur athlete following the 2014 Worlds and introduced a stricter clearance process ahead of every competition.

“We have been very impressed at the rate with which IMMAF Amateur rules have been adopted by our member federations since then, and the rate with which the rules have been implemented across member nations. Our Italian federation, FIGMMA, introduced the cage for top level Amateur matches, while the Finnish MMA Federation replaced Finnish B Class with IMMAF rules and so on. Since 2014 our federations and coaches have complied to IMMAF criteria in submitting athletes for competition, partly enabled by new athletes coming up through the national ranks. Conversely, IMMAF and Nevada record keepers have since been familiar with regional variances that could not be challenged, such as in France where MMA competition is illegal, and have a policy in place.

“By the time of IMMAF’s second tournament in 2015, records no longer presented an issue and we have received no formal complaint from our membership about the standing criteria. For new members or athletes that may present more complex cases, there remains an option to submit a records query ahead of formal application for individual case review.”