By Caoilte de Barra
In April, MMA South Africa (MMASA) held their Annual General Meeting, where three board positions were elected. Then interim president, Raymond Phillips, was officially voted in as president and will serve for four years.
Raymond has been involved in martial arts for years, starting almost 30 years ago in Karate before finding kickboxing. He has since become involved with MMA and was a director for IMMAF in Africa after being approached at the 2014 World Championships.
Following his appointment, he admitted he was unsure if the vote would go his way. He now aims to drive on with the work they have been doing.
“It looks like everyone believes in what we are doing. We’ve got to push forward. As I said, I’ve got the mandate, so I’ve got to be more vocal, be more present. Whereas interim president, I wasn’t because I wasn’t too sure if I was popular enough.”
Raymond planned to only stay in the sport for two years after being asked two help out over ten years ago. He now finds himself at the front of it and is committed to promoting the development of the sport, not only in South Africa but across the continent.
MMASA recently hosted the 2022 IMMAF Africa Championships, and Raymond believes it was a huge success that shone a light on the talent that the continent has to offer.
“This was an eyeopener for everybody, especially in Africa. South Africa and especially the other countries that came to compete; saw that this was something different, that this isn’t some mickey mouse tournament run by a fight show. This is the big league, and it was impressive.
“I was 100% pleased with what the results were. It was a really awesome experience for us, especially to see the hard work that IMMAF, everybody and myself have been doing leading up to this payoff. The thing is, we have reached a peak, and now we have to better that, so we set that bar high and now have to go higher again.”
Setting the bar high makes it difficult to beat. Something Raymond believes is achievable. The tournament has the potential to be scaled by adding federations that did not enter teams. There is even the possibility of having another federation host the competition.
“We would like to see all nineteen federations compete. We need to see the event being hosted by other federations in different countries too. So these one or two countries that ask if they can host it, myself, Kerrith, Densign and the team will be chatting with these federations and see what they can offer. There is quite a bit of work on these federations because they are new.”
Raymond went on to add that he believes that MMASA has won over any previous doubters and hopes that they can build on the work already done.
“There were a couple of federations that ran MMA before us, and not that I criticize, but certain things were done not according to regulation. Then when we took over a lot of people looked at us very critically.
“But I think that we have proved to most of these people that what we said we are going to do, we have done so far, and are going to do more. So yeah, to look at where we started off to where we are now, people can see that we are invested.
“I would like to see this grow, but for me, the amateur athletes must get as much exposure as possible in terms of competing. So they can build up their fight records and get more experience so that when they turn pro, they are good pros.”
Looking ahead, he anticipates a busy spell ahead. The federation is introducing the grading system soon and wants to get refereeing and judging courses actively happening across Africa.
“And also, just to mention the grading scheme we have with IMMAF, where the students can now start grading. We are getting that up and running, but I don’t just want it for South Africa. I want it for all of Africa. The athletes can have something to work towards, like in Karate and kickboxing.”
And the referees and judges. We need to get everyone schooled from our side in South Africa, being the example, and we want to be the pioneer for the rest of Africa.”
We are looking into social projects too. We have put the team together that is going to start doing that so we can get that up and running as soon as possible.”
It has been a strong start to the year for MMA South Africa. Hosting the momentous Africa Championship was only the beginning. The federation is looking to build on its momentum in the months to come and have their eyes firmly set on competing at the World Championships.