Peter Carroll: Regulation through IMAC is not Irish MMA’s preferred Path to recognition

The body claimed that MMA was “not a sport” and highlighted one of the sport’s most polarizing techniques

Peter Carroll: Regulation through IMAC is not Irish MMA’s preferred Path to recognition

©INPHO/Cathal Noonan

It appears as though the Irish Martial Arts Commission(IMAC) have refused to allow the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association(IMMAA) to fall under their umbrella as a potential path to regulation, but according to sources close to IMMAA, that was never the association’s preferred avenue to gaining regulation for the sport.

IMAC’s correspondence with the International Olympic Committee back in April was full of the common contrarian rhetoric about mixed martial arts. The body claimed that MMA was “not a sport” and highlighted one of the sport’s most polarizing techniques, "ground and pound", as one of the reasons why it cannot give IMMAA recognition.

The letter states: "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.

"MMA as it is currently being fought is NOT a sport.

"There are elements which are allowed in MMA that are intentionally dangerous, that cannot be avoided no matter how many doctors are present. To remove these elements would impact significantly on the sell-ability of the sport."

The letter, which was released under the freedom of information act, also compared MMA to dog fighting. While the lofty statement seems to have eliminated the chance of the IMMAA falling under the IMAC umbrella, sources close to the Irish MMA association have claimed that MMA is seeking a stand-alone body much like Irish amateur boxing currently has to gain regulation.

"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."

The lifeblood of a lot of the bodies supported by the Irish Sports Council is the grants that they receive. In 2012, IMAC received a grant of €84,525 for a "mobile stage, boxing ring and floor mats".

Had the IMMAA been allowed to exist under IMAC’s banner, David Gash, Marketing and Communications Manager with Sport Ireland, claimed that it would be at IMAC’s discretion what portion of future grants IMMAA would receive.

Densign White Picture by: Steve Paston / EMPICS Sport

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

Gash also outlined that any additional funds that would be added to IMAC’s grant if they did allow IMMAA to be a part of their organization would be based on how much funds they apply for.

"If IMAC accepted mixed martial arts into their organisation, the funds they received would be all subject to their grant application, from IMAC to Sport Ireland."

Due to the contrarian comments that IMAC have made about MMA, IMMAA may be reluctant to fall under their banner. If IMAC does not see MMA as a legitimate sport, it won’t fill IMMAA with confidence that they will receive a decent portion of any grant given to IMAC in the future.

To add to that, with IMMAA’s governing body IMMAF looking to eventually see MMA contested at the Olympics, significant funding could be needed to gain the sport recognition from WADA (World Anti-Doping Agency) and the IOC. For that reason, a stand-alone body for the sport would be an obvious advantage for the progression of MMA into regulation.

IMMAF will apply for recognition from SportAccord this month. CEO Densign White hopes that Sport Karate’s inclusion into the 2020 Olympics will be a positive sign as they look for an acknowledgment from the organization.

"Firstly, I'd like to congratulate the World Karate Federation," said White on the announcement of sport karate’s inclusion in the 2020 Games. 

"It is fantastic to see another MMA core sport welcomed into the Olympics. Like judo, Taekwondo, boxing and wrestling, Karate has very much informed the development of MMA and shares many of its values. Karate’s acceptance by the IOC also gives us hope as IMMAF submits its application to SportAccord this month for sport recognition, having exceeded all criteria," he said.

Traditional martial arts, many of which are represented by IMAC, have suffered a bit of a downfall since MMA has gained popularity. Instead of sending their children to traditional martial arts training, a lot of parents are now sending their kids to MMA gyms.

As well as that, while the MMA community has embraced sports under IMAC umbrella like Taekwondo, Kickboxing and Sambo, other disciplines like Aikido, Kung Fu, Ninjutsu and Tai Chi have largely been deemed ineffective when pitted against other styles of martial arts at the highest levels of the sport, like UFC.

The self-regulating road taken by Irish amateur boxing, judo, wrestling and now karate seems to fit the Olympic aspirations of IMMAF, so it will be interesting to see if regulation through IMAC continues to an option for the sport following this morning’s revelations.

@PetesyCarroll