By Ross Patterson
UFC 267 was held in Abu Dhabi and has been celebrated as one of the best events of the year. If you were watching closely, you may have noticed the “UAEMMAF” logo on the chest of the referees. The event was shadow-sanctioned by the United Arab Emirates Mixed Martial Arts Federation, which is now working closely with the UFC and IMMAF.
The UAEMMAF is a young federation, joining IMMAF in the summer of this year. They are not yet in a position to fully sanction an event, but the Secretary-General of the commission told me “working with the UFC this weekend was the beginning of something bigger going forward” and that they aim to be the “gold standard in regulation.”
Shadow-sanctioning UFC 267 was an opportunity for the UAEMMAF to learn the best practices in everything from weigh-ins to officiating. At the moment, the UFC uses the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruleset while operating in the UAE, but they are eager to support the development of independent, third-party regulation, as they have with IMMAF federations in Sweden and Brazil.
Marc Goddard was a referee at UFC 267, and is also the Director of Regulatory Affairs with IMMAF. He said: “It’s great once again to see the UFC showing commitment to the sport as a whole in supporting the emerging and developing nations and federations in MMA. Event sanctioning is a very in-depth & critical part of the sport and covers so many vital aspects with many layers.”
Just this week, it was announced that the IMMAF World Championships will take place in Abu Dhabi in January of 2022. This will be an excellent opportunity for the UAEMMAF and IMMAF to work together to deliver a world-class competition.
Going forward, UAEMMAF will be involved in a range of professional MMA events, but the amatuer game will always be their “bread and butter”. The UAE looks set to become a global hub of Mixed Martial Arts.