EXCLUSIVE: Sport Ireland facilitating talks with a view to recognise MMA

The IMMAA may have to go under the IMAC umbrella to gain recognition

BY Peter Carroll 14:40 Wednesday 3 May 2017, 14:40 3 May 2017

Picture by: Jason Silva/Zuma Press/PA Images

Sport Ireland has established a “working group” between the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) and the Irish Martial Arts Commission (IMAC) in the hopes that MMA can gain recognition in Ireland by going under the IMAC umbrella.

David Gash, communications and PR manager for Sport Ireland, told Newstalk.com that Sport Ireland have brought together members of IMAC and IMMAA, along with an independent chairman, to encourage dialogue between the two bodies.

"We have been liaising with (IMMAA). They’re very new in terms of their formation. They were only established towards the middle of last year," explained Gash. 

"We have been engaging with them and the Irish Martial Arts Commission (IMAC) as well. IMAC are a recognised body and umbrella body for martial arts sports."

"MMA going under the IMAC umbrella is one option that is being explored with IMMAA. We have encouraged both bodies to have a dialogue on that to see if there is a way to make that happen."

"With that in mind, we have actively established a working group, which includes IMAC, IMMAA themselves, and we have appointed an independent chairman to facilitate those talks as well."

"That is the situation that is still currently active at present. [Sport Ireland] have facilitated the situation to investigate whether IMMAA can come under that umbrella."

IMAC’s criticism of MMA

In August 2016, RTÉ News obtained documents under the Freedom of Information Act that shows that IMAC wrote to the International Olympic Committee in April 2016 and insisted "MMA as it is currently being fought is NOT a sport."

In the documents, IMAC likened MMA to dog-fighting, writing, "there are some things that belong underground."

The documents also show that IMAC has firm feelings on one of the unique elements of MMA, "ground and pound", a term that describes an action where a fighter hits an opponent while they are grounded, be it by knockdown or take-down.

"If MMA is not interested in changing the rules regarding elements such as ‘ground and pound’ then a ban is the only option to those whom ‘they’ are saying should regulate MMA."

After the documents were released by RTÉ last August, sources close to IMMAA confirmed to Newstalk.com that recognition through IMAC was not Irish MMA’s preferred path. Instead, IMMAA was seeking to become a stand-alone body.

"Gaining regulation for MMA in Ireland by going under the umbrella of IMAC was suggested to IMMAA, but it was never the preferred path to regulation. MMA’s world body, IMMAF, would like to have a similar stand-alone body for MMA in Ireland like boxing has. IMMAF’s goal is to see MMA contested at the Olympics, and given the success of Irish boxing at The Games, they want to follow their model to reach the biggest stage in the world for amateur sport."

Speaking back in August, Gash confirmed that should IMMAA go under the IMAC umbrella to gain recognition, IMAC would have the final say on what portion of a grant would be made available to IMMAA. 

"It would be up to the IMAC’s executive committee what portion of the grant would be given to each sport associated with them,” said Gash in August. “They would make that decision after receiving their grant based on their application."

On-going process

Although IMAC was initially against the notion of mixed-martial-arts in general, Gash claimed that IMMAA and IMAC are still in the process of discussing any potential activity that could see MMA recognised in Ireland. 

"That work is still on-going at the moment. There will be some outcome from the discussions, but both bodies are still going through the process."

Gash also revealed that the "working group" has been encouraged by Sport Ireland.

"We are encouraging them to pursue that at the moment. That is why facilitated the working group. We want to see if this is something that can happen."

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