Picture: Featherweight gold medallist Jari Illikainen is lifted by his coach following victory at the 2014 IMMAF World Amateur Championships in Las Vegas. Earlier this month Jukka Paananen informed the IMMAF that he would be stepping down as Chairman of the Finnish Mixed Martial Arts Federation (FMMAF). Paananen provided a statement regarding the decision and looked back on his time spent as Chairman and what the future has in store. “First of all, it was a big two years for Amateur MMA worldwide. During my time as the Chairman of the Finnish MMA Federation there were two world championships and one European championships. Our teams did well and I’m looking forward to this year. MMA is growing and developing all the time and during this time we didn’t have a person who could work full time for our Federation. “During this two year period I also worked with my professional MMA Team, Team East Front. I have 20 active professional fighters, males and females from Finland, Sweden and Russia. We have our own gym in my hometown Lappeenranta and we put on Fight Night events in Finland; so there were too many things to be carried out. I think it was the right time to step away from the Federation work and start focusing mostly on our Team and our Gym. The world is changing, so I need to put more effort to my daily work as well as continuing my work in MMA. “There were some changes in the Finnish MMA Federation at the beginning of the year and I see that only as a positive thing. Now there is some fresh blood and new energy to continue the work. I wish all the best to them, as they have the wisdom among them to make good decisions and the courage also to make difficult ones. “I enjoyed working with the IMMAF staff, Alistair Pettit, Roberto Reid, Jorden Curran, Gosha Malik and Yoni Gotlieb from Safe MMA. There are hundreds of emails I exchanged with them and I always highly appreciated their quick replies. I wish all the best for the IMMAF crew. You have been doing great work, just continue it.” The position of Acting Chairman has now been taken by FMMAF board member Heikki Kaijalainen. “Heikki is the new President of the Finnish MMA Federation and I have no doubt that he will definitely take good care of our Federation. The next years will be as busy so it will require hard work, but I trust Heikki.” Finland entered 2016 with tremendous competitive momentum having exited the previous year as the most successful nation under the banner of IMMAF championship events. After Finland entered both the IMMAF World Championships and European Open, the Scandinavian nation topped the international medal table with the highest number of gold medals in 2015. As a coach Paananen has lead a number of his home grown fighters to success under the IMMAF banner including 2014 world featherweight champion Jari Illikainen, European Open lightweight champion Sanna Merta and European Open bronze medallist Inka Auvinen. During his tenure as Chairman which began in 2014 Finland has become a hotbed for standout amateur athletes and in 2015 the national body was formally recognized and supported by the Finnish Government. Everyone at the IMMAF would like to thank Jukka for his tireless work with the Finnish MMA Federation.