By President Kerrith Brown OLY
Having to adapt and react to various situations has been a major factor over the 18 months and it will continue to be the case. It has most recently happened with the World Championships. However, a trip to the UAE to establish a new team ahead of the World Championships has us moving in the right direction.
Originally the 2021 World Championships were due to be hosted by one of our other national federations, Kazakhstan. However, they were no longer able to host the event due to Covid protocols in Nur Sultan. This led to the postponement of the event but at the last minute, we were able to secure another partner to put it on, the UAE federation.
On a broader scale, the UAE was always a target nation for us. Working with our Asia representative and IMMAF Board member, Wissam Abi Nader, the goal was to get a federation set up in the UAE and subsequently find the right partners. Once this was set up, the next step for us was to have the federation invest in hosting events. Once we had laid the foundations the idea of hosting an event in the UAE became a reality with the booking of the World Championships. The set-up we have will hopefully help the development of the sport both nationally and internationally.
Strategically we had to look at the details of hosting the event this year. Although we wanted to do this, unfortunately, the logistics were too big of a challenge on our side and the federation’s side. Then we had the hurdle of events like Formula One already scheduled in the UAE. This made it difficult to find the right type of slot for us to have it in 2021 and it therefore made sense to move it to January.
In the build-up to the competition, a key thing that will be monitored is the COVID-19 protocols that are changing so rapidly, be it day-to-day or week -to-week. This is something that we’ve done throughout the pandemic and if there are any major changes then we have to react, but the key thing for us is to ensure that everyone involved is safe.
On the back of the competition being moved to the UAE, a two-part deal was struck, the initial part of the deal being the hosting of the World Championships. The second part will see the Youth World Championships hosted in Abu Dhabi for the next three years, the summertime being the target time of year for the event.
This deal allows for the development of the Youth World Championships over the next three years, moving hand-in-hand with our plans for youth development as a whole within the sport, supporting it from the ground up. Youth Development is currently a major focus for us and having coaches who understand its importance is key.
The aim is to create an infrastructure for mixed martial arts that makes it a complete sport, no longer reliant on drawing talent across from the traditional combat sport disciplines. Education will be the main driver for this in tandem with our competition pathway. To facilitate this, we have added a new level of competency to IMMAF coaches’ certification of IMMAF Youth Coach, which has proved successful with our members and continues to grow. Over the last two years, we have seen the number of enrolled members in the IMMAF Level 1 Online Programme grow from 245 to 795. It is this work that will serve as a fundamental game-changer for the sport over the years to come.