This article was produced by SportBusiness International working in association with the IMMAF.
MIXED MARTIAL ARTS (MMA) HAS SHOWN such a phenomenal growth since its contemporary inception in the 90s, that it is easy to forget its professional rules are no older than iTunes.
With an evolution that has run back-to-front to traditional sports, modern MMA originated on a commercial, broadcast platform the same year as the world’s very first website and its unprecedented spread has been carried by the rapid development of the worldwide web.
This has led to the organic explosion of a grassroots industry made up of clubs, gyms and promotions across the globe. MMA is now a multi-billion-dollar industry.
So what is MMA? MMA combines the most effective techniques from traditional disciplines that include judo, boxing, taekwondo, wrestling and Muay Thai. It shares the ethics, skill and fitness associated with these core arts. Like its mixed combat forebears, MMA evolved as a result of elite level martial artists seeking to not only master one discipline but multiple complex disciplines.
Founded in 2012, the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) is the world’s only international, democratic governing body for the sport. Founded from within the MMA community, its purpose is to protect and further the development, recognition and regulation of the sport on all levels through its network of 58 (and rising) non-profit, democratic national federations. IMMAF’s ultimate vision is for MMA to become an Olympic sport – the highest level of formal recognition – bringing legitimacy and enabling access for all.
At the same time, MMA does not need any assistance in its growth or popularity. The recent sale of market leader, UFC, to WME-IMG for $4 billion well illustrates this, as does the sport’s estimated fan base of 450,000,000. IMMAF’s key areas of focus include progression pathways for MMA’s participants, and the unification and governance of rules and regulation to ensure a fair, clean and safe sport. IMMAF is also focussed on developing its global calendar of world-class Amateur Championship events.
IMMAF’s unique nation vs nation, tournament format under the safer IMMAF Amateur rules, sets IMMAF events apart from those of commercial promoters. Features such as the recent introduction of red and blue rash guard tops for male and female competitors and shin guards, national anthems and medal presentations help create a distinct ‘Olympic MMA’ brand feel.
IMMAF held its inaugural World Championships in 2014 in Las Vegas as part of UFC International Fight Week, intended as a biennial event. Based on its success IMMAF followed up with its 2nd World Championships in 2015, and first European and Pan American Opens that same year. 2016 saw the IMMAF World Championships return to Las Vegas, fast followed by a first African Open and now a European Open set for Prague this November.
Watch trailer for “2016 IMMAF European Open Championships” – coming to Prague this November https://t.co/4Rsn2PAZWh
— IMMAF (@IMMAFed) September 23, 2016
From here, IMMAF is working to develop an annual calendar that includes one World Championships plus five continental championships for 2017 and beyond, as well as a tier of regional and flagship events.
This growth is echoed by IMMAF’s broadcast footprint: IMMAF’s second event attained reach across over 130 countries and 5 continents via 10 broadcast deals, and saw penetration into new territories, Brazil (Globosat) and New Zealand (Sky Sports). IMMAF’s third event, the 2015 European Open, saw the commencement of a six-figure, multi-year deal with Extreme Sports Channel in Europe and an increase of 150% in hours of coverage. The recent 2016 World Championships has led to the securing of further yet-to-be-announced deals.
IMMAF certainly has the people to facilitate its continued advancement: previous UFC Vice- President David Allen (brand and commerce), BAMMA’s David Green (TV production), Olympians and former judo administrators Densign White and Kerrith Brown (CEO and President), alongside Lausanne-based Broadreach Media (TV sales).
As IMMAF moves into the year’s final quarter, it is busy mapping out its events schedule for 2017 and beyond, opening up exciting partnership opportunities for broadcasters and sponsors.