By Jake Smith
As part of International Mixed Martial Arts Technical Seminar Week, world renowned referee and IMMAF Director of Regulatory Affairs Marc Goddard delivered a seminar on the need for regulatory pathways to ensure the continual development of MMA.
Marc opened the seminar by explaining what an official is and that officials should never be an afterthought, with the selection and hiring of tournament officials being at the forefront at all levels of the sport. Ignoring the development of top class officials will negatively impact the athletes, who are the heartbeat of the sport.
He then discussed the importance in keeping officials trained, tested and vetted; and explained the way in which IMMAF practise this as an international federation. IMMAF has trained and evaluated more than 200 people in 15 countries globally. Goddard spoke about how IMMAF events provide invaluable and concentrated experience on an unprecedented level across all areas.
These successfully certified officials now have opportunities all over the world and can continue their personal development, as there exists a proven pathway in the sport. Not only have IMMAF athlete alumni represented their respective countries on the highest platforms but officials have too, with special mention given to Clemens Werner, Vito Paolillo and Angelo Tarantini who have now officiated at the highest level of pro MMA. But above all, Goddard believes it is IMMAF’s responsibility to ensure a baseline minimum competency level.
Goddard expressed his view that the steps IMMAF have taken in recent years to show the world how amateur MMA should look and could look, has been ‘phenomenal’ and is one of his proudest achievements during a long career which covers all aspects of MMA.
Marc then moved onto the need for collective responsibility in MMA and explained that member federations are responsible for the correct training, evaluation and certification of their selected officials; and are responsible for regulating their events in a proper and orderly manner. The collective responsibility also lies with the member federation officials. Goddard was keen to emphasise that the role of an official doesn’t begin and end solely with events. Officials have a responsibility to make good use of the experience and information they take away from events, courses and seminars, passing this on to their country’s members.
Marc finished the seminar by announcing the introduction of a new IMMAF online MMA Officials Training, to commence in May 2021.
The new online platform will ensure that would-be and selected officials who are located in remote and hard to reach areas, or in a country still severely affected severely by COVID, can still be properly trained and certified.
The platform allows for theoretical knowledge to be tested, evaluated and certified. A two step certification will still be in place, with Goddard comparing it to passing a driving test: the theory can be done online, with a physical exam, emphasising how you perform as an individual in a competitive situation, done later.
Looking ahead, Goddard explained that once “normality resumes” post Pandemic, the uptake of educational and certification courses should be paramount, alongside continual online communication, training and live scoring exercises for certified officials. He shared his hopes that both certified, and would-be, officials will be present at the World Youth Championships in Istanbul.
In the Q&A segment of the seminar, an audience member asked about technology within the sport, Goddard revealed that for the last 6 months he and the team have been working on developing a software which allows judges to use tablets while in the near future, there will be a new electronic interface and platform for judges. This will not change the way fights will be scored but make it more efficient and reliable.
He was also questioned about how best to deal with criticism as an official. Goddard advocated that integrity is the key. This can never waver and officials exist to make decisions, even if they don’t please everyone.
Goddard summarized by emphasising the importance of expert training. Would-be officials must be ready to learn properly and fortunately, at IMMAF the right information is accessible to everyone at the very start of their officiating journey.
More information on the new IMMAF MMA Official Training online will be sent to members soon.