Translated from article at MSN.ru on 2 December 2020: Хабиб будет биться за включение ММА в программу Олимпиады. Сделать это сложнее, чем стать чемпионом UFC (msn.com)
Article by Ilya Andreev (RUS)
The problem is that wrestling, boxing, judo, taekwondo see mixed martial arts as a dangerous competitor. Khabib wants to see MMA included in Olympic program.
Khabib Nurmagomedov gave a press conference in Tashkent on Tuesday, where he was asked about the possibility of including MMA in the Olympic program. It turned out that Nurmagomedov not only supports this idea, but will lobby it at a meeting with IOC President Thomas Bach, which, according to him, will take place in the near future.
“The inclusion of MMA in the Olympics is one of my main tasks for the next couple of years, we are already working in this direction,” Khabib said. “In the near future I will have many meetings, including with the president of the Olympic Committee. I think if not in Paris, then in Los Angeles we have a great chance to promote MMA. We need to unite all the federations that exist in the world. In my opinion, 60 or 70 federations must be united in order to promote the sport to the Olympics.
“The only issue is the perceived cruelty of the sport,” the champion said. “They don’t welcome it at the Olympics, they don’t want a lot of blood. But in terms of recognition, sponsorship, in terms of interest for television, MMA, I think, if it enters the program of the Olympics, will be on a par with football and athletics in interest. We are already working in this direction. In the near future I will have many meetings, including with the President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach. A lot of work will be done to ensure that MMA is included in the Olympic program. It is unlikely that we will succeed in 2024, we want MMA to be at the Olympics in 2028.”
Khabib himself, who has finished his career as a fighter, does not intend to become an Olympic champion. He said this at a press conference in Moscow in August. “I’ll be a grandfather by then,” he said.
The main organization for amateur MMA is the International Federation of Mixed Martial Arts (IMMAF), founded in 2012 in Sweden. Two years ago, it merged with the World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMA), which was led by the president of M-1 Global, former manager Fedor Emelianenko Vadim Finkelstein. Finkelstein is now the honorary president of IMMAF. The federation is headed by Briton Kerrit Brown. It comprises 63 national associations [ Correction: 120 national associations – IMMAF ed.]. IMMAF has the classic structure of an international federation, it annually holds world championships (this year cancelled because of the pandemic). However, mixed martial arts have not yet been recognized at the international level.
A prerequisite for the inclusion of the sport in the Olympic Games program is membership in the Global Association of International Sports Federations (GAISF), formerly called SportAccord. The first step towards full recognition is getting GAISF’s so-called observer status. GAISF has denied IMMAF this status for several years. The last rejection came in February 2019. The official reasons are:
- Influence of commercial structures (UFC supports IMMAF);
- Competing with federations claiming to run the sport;
- Concern about the health and safety of athletes.
Competing organizations include the Global Mixed Martial Arts Association (GAMMA), founded in Amsterdam at the end of 2018. It is supported by a large Singaporean MMA promotion, One Championship. In November 2019, GAMMA hosted its World Championships in Singapore. It was less representative than that of IMMAF. In April 2020, it was reported that GAMMA had 25 federations. The organization is invisible – it is inactive in social networks (there is only a Facebook page) and GAMMA does not have its own site.
But, according to IMMAF, the main reason for the refusal is not in the UFC, GAMMA and the supposed cruelty of MMA, but in the fact that other contact sports (wrestling, boxing, judo, taekwondo) do not want to see mixed martial arts in the Olympic program. You can read about how officials from the wrestling and boxing federations have a negative attitude towards MMA in last year’s article by a colleague of Mikhail Potapov.
“It’s politics,” Densign White, IMMAF’s chief executive, told SportsPro in May 2019. “It’s not really about us. It’s not about whether we manage well or not, what kind of medical care we have, what programs we have for the development of young people or what coaches and what competitions we have. None of this matters. It’s just about politics. This is what we understand.
“The martial arts representatives are influential in GAISF, they hold key positions there,” he continued. “Their actions are a clear attempt to prevent MMA from making any progress (on the way to becoming an Olympic sport) because they see us as a competitor, as a threat to their sports. When they come here, they act as one. If we [our membership application was to be put to vote at the GAISF assembly]… we’d have a mountain to climb because all 15 martial arts would vote against us. Before the vote, we would start with a “minus 15” count.
White said the lack of observer status under GAISF prevents IMMAF from becoming a signatory to the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) code.
“They also influence WADA’s decision in terms of our application to become signatory to the WADA Code,” he said. “GAISF keeps telling us that WADA is independent, that they make their own decisions, but I have made it clear to them that we know that this is not the case. WADA are doing what you tell them! At WADA, we were told that if GAISF allowed us to obtain observer status, we would automatically become signatories of the code. Obviously, GAISF doesn’t want this to happen. They know that becoming a member of WADA is not a trifle, but an important thing, it is what leads to full membership in their organization, as well as blocking other MMA federations.”
It is amateur MMA and not professional, that IMMAF is fighting to get into the Olympic program. “Every year we invite these guys from GAISF to come because we want them to see what we’re doing,” White said. “We’re not secret, we’re completely open and transparent, but they never come, they’re always too busy.”
IMMAF is not discouraged and continues to fight for MMA to become part of the Olympic program. This year the petition, “MMA Is A Sport” was launched, which, however, never went global (only 15,000 people signed the petition on the website at change.org). Plus IMMAF is now registered as a non-profit organization in Switzerland, where the IOC apartment is located – the federation believes that this is important. Plus, now the federation has a new ally – Khabib. But based on everything that has happened in previous years, it will be very difficult to turn the situation around even for him. So far, the balance of power is such that go, tug-of-war, sport fishing and bridge are more likely to become Olympic sports than MMA – they, unlike mixed martial arts, are recognized by GAISF.
In May 2021, the GAISF summit is scheduled to take place in Yekaterinburg, with an update expected on the status of IMMAF.