IMMAF on the Move – Belgian MMA [Interview]

Words: Caio Lemos Appearances may be deceiving: Belgium is a small country on the world map, but the process of promoting MMA within its borders hasn’t been easy. Because of the double task created by dealing with two different governments, the Belgian MMA Federation has spent a great amount of time working to unify the sport between the Flemish and Walloon (French speaking) regions. With 8 years of experience behind it, the Belgian MMA Federation (BMMAF) has made impressive accomplishments and has had to tackle numerous challenges in order to establish itself. The notable growth of the sport in Belgium is the proof that MMA and its practitioners are in good hands, and it was this hard work that led the country to be represented in the first World Championships of Amateur MMA in Las Vegas, this year.  Also, the efforts to organize more and more events throughout both regions of the nation are starting to garner results. IMMAF caught up with Belgian MMA Federation President, Ludovic Boulvin, to find out more about the progress of the BMMAF and Belgian MMA:   1) Since joining IMMAF, what have been the main achievements for the Belgian Federation? We have continued to organize many events, as we had already been doing for 8 years previously,  which allow for different levels of participants’ experience. In Belgium, our categories include ‘novice’, ‘novice+’ and also ‘teenagers’ before a participant can compete at amateur level. But the real big step for us was to establish our regulatory activities in the northern part of the country, the Flemish Region, as Belgium is split between two different governments. We were warmly welcomed, and it’s even funny because we received recognition from the official Flemish sports association at the same time as the French government was, and is still, trying to deny our well founded legitimacy. The association for fighting sports in Flanders was really positive about our experience and management of the sport. We have organized more than 2000 MMA bouts from all levels, but only in the French region to date. Events in Flanders are planned for 2015.   2) How big is the MMA scene in the country? Could you tell me a bit about it? The scene is getting bigger day after day, with new talent emerging. I would say there must be around 1500 – 2000 practitioners, not all affiliated to the BMMAF yet. However, I think that people know how well we’re working and they have trust in the way we manage the competitions, so usually when they want to start competing, they join us.   3) How was the experience of competing in such an event as the  2014 IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA, in Las Vegas? It was great. Obviously after so many years in the sport, it felt good to see people from all around the world gathering and sharing their passion for the sport; and everything was well organized. The Belgian athletes were proud to be a part of it. My only regret is that we didn’t receive any support from our country to be there.   4) What have been the hardest challenges and obstacles Belgian MMA has had to face so far? Eight years ago, we really had to face a lot of adversity from the government and defamation from other sports federations. But we have worked so hard,  that now enough people know the truth about the discipline and the respect everyone has for each other within the sport, it would just look ridiculous to try and present it as otherwise.   5) Looking forward to 2015, what comes next? What are the BMMAF’s plans and objectives for the near future? We want to keep on spreading the sport in the country, to bring all the practitioners together under the same umbrella, and to obtain official recognition from the French government too, which would be logical after our recognition from the Flemish one. We also plan to organize more events per year and start a pedagogical process for trainers. We are set to manage a big event coming up in January in Belgium, “Fightor”, featuring Dean Lister (UFC, Pride, ADCC) in the main event and other high level athletes from around the world, including former Bellator, Shooto and M1 fighters. So we have a lot of good things coming up and a lot of work to do.   Photo: Belgian MMA Team at the 2014 IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas Belgian MMA  

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