Pictured above: Junior competitor Aliiskander Aliev earned a bronze medal for Azerbaijan at the 2018 IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships Due to MMA’s increasing popularity in the country, the Azerbaijan MMA Federation has confirmed that a dense schedule of events and activities are to be laid out in 2019, set to accommodate MMA participants in each region of the country with a view to improving the domestic competition level and national team recruitment. Headed by President Rovshan Gasanov, the Azerbaijan MMA Federation, supported by the nation’s government, was among the wave of prominent WMMAA members to be welcomed by IMMAF as the two global regulatory bodies announced a historic amalgamation. On January 26, the Azerbaijan Federation will hold its first conference in Baku with national media outlets and TV channels invited to attend. The federation board will be present together with representatives of the Azerbaijan Ministry of Sports, as well as the heads of the regional departments and registered MMA clubs. The main focus of the conference is to discuss further progression for MMA at the national level and development of prominence on the international platform. The end of February will be highlighted by the Federation Cup of MMA across 3 age categories: Adults: 18+ Juniors A: 18-20 years old Juniors B: 16-17 years old Pictured: Flyweight competitor Sanan Safarli received national praise upon winning a first international gold medal for Azerbaijan, at the 2017 IMMAF European Open Championships. By April, selection tournaments will have taken place in respective regions after which the Azerbaijan MMA Championships will take place at the end of the month. Champions will form 3 teams in the aforementioned age categories and will proceed to fly the national flag colors in IMMAF-WMMAA’s international championships. Furthermore, negotiations are ongoing with federations of neighboring countries, concerning possible international amateur tournaments between the regions. During March, educational seminars for referees and judges are expected to take place for developing officials. The most experienced candidates will later be nominated to complete IMMAF-WMMAA certification.