Since the tragic death of Joao Carvalho on Monday night, the Irish Amateur Pankration Association (IAPA) has come into focus in regards to regulation of mixed martial arts in Ireland.
Outside of MMA circles the Association were hardly known before the tragic events of the past week, but who are they and what do they hope to achieve?
The Association was formed in 2014 "with the express purpose of creating a framework where Irish Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and its associate clubs, coaches & fighters, would become recognised as a legitimate sport in Ireland". John Kavanagh, coach at Straight Blast Gym was named the Association's President.
In the Association's opening statement they revealed the IAPA was set up on the back of the outstanding successes of Irish fighters with large MMA promotions . "Something obviously needed to be done that granted Irish MMA recognition as a sport and created a framework where MMA could be insured like any other sport, regulated like any other sport, and supported at both governmental and local council level, just like any other sport."
The IAPA is recognised by the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF). The International Federation was only created in 2012 "to further the development and recognition of the sport of mixed martial arts, enabling international competition through the organization of national MMA federations around the world."
John Kavanagh is the IAPA President. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
In a statement released to Newstalk, the IMMAF stated that; "The IAPA is a young governing body formed from within the MMA community in the Republic of Ireland at the close of 2014 with the backing of gyms, athletes and stakeholders. They are working tirelessly to develop the sport, put regulatory structures in place and have been active campaigners for the regulation of MMA."
"They have been working with promoters that opt in to raise safety standards at events and develop sanctioning. The IAPA has no legal mandate or funding, and has no power to enforce any protocol."
Despite the lack of power to enforce protocol, the IAPA claim they have been at the forefront of fighter safety in Ireland. The Association wrote an open letter, signed by their General Secretary Deano Wade to all promoters in Ireland in September 2015 looking for the standardisation of practices.
"The IAPA are requesting that Irish promoters continue to lead the way in fighter safety by requiring fighters to have completed a yearly medical examination and blood testing. This requirement will obviously increase the safety of ALL competitors but will also show that each promoter did everything possible to ensure the safety of the fighters that are essentially the life-blood of the sport... In my opinion it also shows that the Irish MMA community is committed to leading the way in fighter safety and the general well-being of the sport of MMA."
Among the promoters to sign of to the yearly medical examinations and blood testing were Total Extreme Fighting, the group that held the fight involving Carvalho last weekend. Another group who signed to up the request where Battlezone, under the auspices of Andy Ryan.
Ryan is the IAPA Vice-President and runs the very successful Team Ryano gym in Finglas. UFC star Neil Seery is his most famous student.
Andy Ryan (white gloves) is the IAPA Vice-President. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Cathal Noonan
As Ireland does not have a governing body, any time the UFC host an event in Dublin, they self regulate the event using standardised rules. They also adopt the requirements as set by the Nevada State Athletic Commission.
When the UFC held an event in Dublin last October, the IAPA shadow-sanctioned the event to find out how the American organisation run their events. IAPA board member Deano O'Sullivan revealed after the event who beneficial it was to the association.
"The IAPA got to see how the UFC does fighter medicals on the morning of afternoon weigh-ins. The medics are located with the scales where fighters came to check their weight. So the fighters generally did their medicals and tested their weight. Then, after all of this was done, the fighters were brought over together for the public weigh-in. We had a guy who ran us through all the procedure for this part of that day and stayed with us throughout".
Fighter safety is clearly at the forefront of the IAPA's mantra. Only last month, they ran a course for cut-men to become accredited by the IMMAF. The main aim of the course was; "to educate participants on putting fighter health & safety first".
— Joseph Clifford (@irishcutman) March 1, 2016
The IAPA's ultimate goal is to become the regulatory body for mixed martial arts in Ireland. To do that, the association needs to be regulated by Sport Ireland. In a recent interview with The42.ie, Sport Ireland CEO John Treacy confirmed that the IAPA are currently in pole position to fill that role but need to professionalise themselves.
Treacy said; "Maybe Pankration isn’t a million miles from MMA, so there are mechanisms there. But we need to deal with a corporate body, we can’t deal with individuals, because you need rules, regulations – all the non-government bodies need to have rules and regulations and be fully compliant with WADA." He also added that "there is a long road to travel" for an association to reach official status.
On Wednesday evening, the IAPA confirmed that they work on a "voluntary consultation basis to recommend safety standards at events and develop sanctioning".
Despite numerous requests from Newstalk to answer questions about the Total Extreme Fighting event on Saturday, the IAPA failed to respond to those queries. On their Facebook page the IAPA said they were unable to comment as the event in the National Stadium was still under investigation.