By Ross Patterson
As mixed martial arts continues to grow, data has become a vital aspect of the sport. Powerful software and technical expertise allow tournaments to run smoothly, ensure medical safety and track athletes’ career progression.
MMA is still young. Over the past 20 years, it has grown from a Wild-West of unregulated, independent promotions, to a legitimate, respected combat sport. In the early days, there were no systems to track athletes’ medical records, fight results, suspensions, or even their real names.
Mikhail Mazur, the Chief Technology Officer at IMMAF, explained why data is so important to the sport:
“Data is vital in many aspects. First is proof of relevance. As we strive to become an Olympic sport, we need to showcase the scale, numbers of MMA practitioners, be it recreational or competitive under IMMAF or our national federations. Logically, the next aspect is if the data is correct. We need to make sure the information we provide is validated and true… By having a robust and reliable information platform, we can ensure its trustworthiness.”
So to truly understand how popular MMA has become, we need reliable, trustworthy data to draw upon. But participation is just one part. Reliable data is needed almost everywhere:
“We use various sorts of information that is needed by various departments of IMMAF, be it personal information to authenticate the people competing at our events, medical history to ensure safety and health of athletes, aforementioned track records and personal statistics, equipment sizing, suspensions, certifications you name it…”
IMMAF has to track everything from kit sizes to infectious diseases. Every department of the international federation relies on data to run smoothly.
My Next Match
IMMAF has become famous for running huge, multi-day competitions, featuring hundreds of athletes. This is made possible by its partnership with My Next Match. Founded in 2016, My Next Match is a programme that manages athlete profiles, medical records, and builds large-scale tournaments such as the IMMAF World Championships.
The CEO of My Next Match, Oner Avara described how My Next Match works with IMMAF:
“Our main engagement with IMMAF is that IMMAF and their National governing bodies can run their own tournaments on our platform which includes registration, check-in, ID cards, weigh-in, bracket draw, technical officials assignments (judge, referee) results entry, rankings, reports and many more tools to host the tournament in a most efficient way.”
My Next Match also has an award-winning software called MediCard. It is a digitised medical record system, or “online medical passport” that allows federations to check athletes are eligible to compete. Paper medical records are still widely used in MMA, which often get lost or discarded. This means information relating to prior injuries is not available, and athletes are deemed fit when they are not.
Oner explained MediCard’s value:
“The Medicard is for each registered athlete, which is stored in a central and secure database, accessible only to medical professionals. This allows federation doctors to process and record medical results for all post-match injuries, annual examinations as well as vaccinations, blood reports etc.
Medical professionals can create a complete digital medical footprint for athletes, tracking their health and injury progress from grassroots until their retirement.”
Digitised medical records make the whole sport safer. They stop the transmission of blood-borne diseases, block athletes from competing when they’re unfit to do so, and allow officials to retrospectively analyse health data to make better decisions going forward.
The MMA Supercup
The inaugural MMA Supercup took place in Bahrain, and featured the top 8 national teams compteting against one another in a completely new format. Athletes would compete, winning a point for a win. Once a nation had won more than 5 points, they progressed to the next round.
This posed a new challenge for IMMAF and My Next Match. They had to work together to innovate a new tournament system. Mikhail explained:
“The Super Cup presented an interesting problem for us. Traditionally, brackets contain the names that won’t change and it’s a single elimination system. In Bahrain we had a team format where even an athelte who lost could still be able to fight in the next round since on points his team won. Also replacements and potential weight changes were something to prepare MyNextMatch for.”
A bespoke system was created to manage the tournament, which was a success. This kind of innovation is a great example of the changing demands on the technical team, as well as their ability to come up with solutions to new problems.
Data has a part to play in almost every part of the sport. It would be impossible to deliver IMMAF tournaments without systems like My Next Match, and reliable medical records are ctitical to athlete safety.