“The standardization of Amateur rules is essential to the development of international Amateur MMA”
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) has conducted an evaluation of its 2014 IMMAF World Championships application criteria and its definitions of Amateur and Professional MMA. Difficulties relating to public record keeping have also been reviewed.
The 2014 IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA was a world first for Mixed Martial Arts; and brought to life issues around the classification of historic bouts under different international rule sets, in the absence of standardized rules.
Participants from across the globe entered the 2014 Championships from a spectrum of cultural settings with varied rule sets, pathways and national definitions of Amateur. Where there arose disagreement about a competitor’s level, their case was assessed by IMMAF both prior to and during this unprecedented event. Some international Amateur levels were not recognized by the Nevada State Athletic Commission and needed to be justified by IMMAF in order to allow participants to compete. (See Issues around National Definitions of Amateur MMA)
The following conclusions and recommendations were made:
- Historic bout records should be viewed by IMMAF with respect to the countries in which the bouts took place for the next few years.
- Amateur eligibility should be more clearly defined by IMMAF in relation to historic bouts, for the next few years.
- Amateur eligibility should be more clearly defined by IMMAF in financial terms.
- Accepted pathways and national Amateur rule sets should be outlined by IMMAF for member countries where IMMAF rules cannot be implemented, and where standards must be adapted to legal and cultural restrictions.
- Popular independent record keeping sites do not account for the variety of existing MMA rule sets. Athletes have no control over their match information. How matches are recorded needs to be addressed.
- Member federations must take responsibility for the published records of their team prior to application to participate in IMMAF international competitions.
- The standardization of Amateur rules is essential to the development of international Amateur MMA. IMMAF recommends the implementation of IMMAF Amateur Rules in all member countries where it is not prohibited.
OTHER CLASSIFICATION ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED
Lack of Defined Pathways
Where there is not a regulated pathway in a region or where there is variance in pathways and rule sets between regions, athletes may have moved up and down between Professional and Amateur levels. This is more likely where there has been a shortage of regional competition, such as in women’s weight classes.
This also means that competitors may find themselves unwittingly moving between levels if they compete abroad. In all these instances an agreement may have been reached between two teams about the details of rules for that bout, and classification may not have been considered.
Amateur rule sets may vary between different parts of the same country, and again be difficult at times to identify particularly on mixed level cards.
Even where rule sets are clear, the skill level can vary dramatically between different countries with Amateurs from some regions stronger than Professionals from others. This may equally raise questions about eligibility in relation to competitor safety.
Benefits of Professional Records & Issue of Record Keeping
Most athletes aspire to build up Professional records to get onto the radar of professional promoters. Changing bouts from Professional to Amateur, where errors have been made and even where there is strong evidence, can be problematic. Corrections will affect the records of opponents and a wider web of competitors, which may in turn effect multiple fight cards for particular promoters. While there is more perceived value in accruing a Professional record, strong objections may occur from other affected athletes. Promoters (and managers even) may be loath to support the correction of records errors within this context.
Where Record Keeping Can Have an Impact
MMA.tv is referred to as an official database by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. Where “Semi-Pro” or other rules bouts have been classified as Professional on the site, competitors will find themselves barred from competing at Amateur level within that State.
Popular public record keeping sites are independently run but are not regulated. It is not always clear how some data has arrived onto the sites, despite the impact that records may have on an athlete’s career. Sometimes neither the promoter nor the competitor were aware of the listing.
Popular independent record-keeping site, Sherdog, recommends to promoters and event organizers: “The best advice we can give to anyone, anywhere at this point would be to send us fight cards ahead of time for upcoming events, clearly delineating between professional and amateur bouts, so there can be no confusion after the fact.”
NOTES: Issues around National Definitions of Amateur MMA
AUSTRIA & FINLAND
Former Finnish B-Class and Austrian “Newcomer” bouts consisting of 2 x 5 mins rounds and using no protective wear can be difficult to identify from Professional bouts using video sources, particularly where the fight is not finished in the first two rounds and may go to a third round. Differentiation is difficult also due to a high skill level at Amateur level in both countries, and particularly on mixed level cards.
Pankration or Pancrase rules bouts were ultimately accepted as being of Amateur level by IMMAF due to strikes not being permitted on the ground. However, as French competitors may reach a high level of experience in Pankration and also be paid to compete, classification by rules only cannot be definitive.
UK, IRELAND & ITALY
Semi-Pro rules bouts from these regions were found to be wrongly recorded as Professional bouts on US based sites, which almost disenabled IMMAF athletes from competing in the state of Nevada.
Distinction between Professional and Amateur bouts according to where income or funding comes from, at this stage in the sport’s development, was not helpful in application to Ukraine. MMA is an official Amateur Sport in Ukraine and the Amateur team came representing its Sports Ministry.
Within Ukraine and other Eastern European countries, athletes seem to move freely between full contact Unified Rules to Sambo and Free-style fighting competitions on mats with headgear or traditional clothing. There was no distinction in some cases between the recording of these different style bouts on MMA sites, and all disciplines were considered Amateur sports by the Ukrainian Sports Ministry.
Some competitors from Ukraine have accrued a lot of competitive experience across disciplines before the age of 18, which is the entry age for IMMAF.