Marc Goddard: IMMAF courses will help leading promotions select officials

Picture: Marc Goddard addressing experienced referees and judges from across Europe at IMMAF’s first certification course for MMA officials in Prague. Last year saw the launch of IMMAF‘s official certification course for referees and judges, which welcomed candidates with various levels of experience from several countries to undergo coaching and assessment. The course also aimed to unify the participants’ understanding of officiating amateur MMA competition. Designed and lead by renowned UFC referee and IMMAF Regulatory Affairs consultant Marc Goddard, the first stop on this international tour was a September visit to Prague, hosted by the Czech Republic Mixed Martial Arts Association (MMAA). The success of this saw additional IMMAF members express interest, and Marc was invited to conduct a further two courses in December, hosted by the United States Mixed Martial Arts Federation (UMMAF) in Phoenix, Arizona, and the Romanian Mixed Martial Arts Federation (RMMAF) in Bucharest. Marc expressed the significance of being invited to lead a course in the USA: “I went out to Arizona which was kind of unprecedented,” he explained, “because they have renowned and established referees in the U.S., and to the western world it’s the home of mixed martial arts. So being invited to go over there and sit down with some of their officials was a real highlight, ranging from some who are just breaking in to those who are working on some of the biggest shows in the world. It just goes to show that the IMMAF’s rate of expansion is phenomenal.” As well as working with a vast array of experienced and developing officials, Marc was also pleased to be able to discuss the development of the IMMAF with his UFC stateside colleagues. “The key referees in the United States, Herb Dean and John McCarthy, I work with them closely…not just as work colleagues, but friends too. I did the course in Arizona, then I was working the shows in Las Vegas so I was able to sit down and talk with Herb and John and let them know exactly what we’re trying to do at the IMMAF. In our heart and minds, myself, Herb and John want nothing but the best for the sport, and our driving interest is in the correct and proper training of officials. The synergy is there now and that’s the beauty of this development. If these guys can understand it then it further shows there’s real credibility there.” As participants are graded and assessed, one of the course’s long term goals is to provide promotions such as the UFC with details of capable and approved IMMAF officials as they enter new territories across the globe. Most importantly, those who successfully pass the IMMAF course are not simply “let loose”, but are assigned a grading from A-C, heavily based on experience, which then dictates the level of competition at which they can officiate. “It will work well for the world’s leading and biggest MMA organisations as when they go to new territories they will be able to look at the trained grade A, B or whatever officials who have completed the IMMAF course, because we want the best of the best, it’s the same in any sport. Brand new referees in football don’t suddenly referee the World Cup; there’s levels in everything..fighters, coaches, judges and referees. Experience and time served applies to each and every person in this sport. “In its current state the IMMAF is centred around amateur competition. I wrote, designed and developed the course for the IMMAF and deliver it on their behalf. It’s a two-day course with several key elements; participation and verbal reasoning, they have written and practical examinations and a judging assessment…there’s a whole multitude of things that candidates are graded on. The important thing is that those who pass aren’t just let loose on the world. It’s all about continued development and having a pathway and progression element. Fighters don’t make their debut in the UFC, they work their way up through local, national and European levels, and that’s exactly the same ethos that we’re trying to develop through the IMMAF.” Furthermore, previous experience does not guarantee a head start in passing the IMMAF certification course. Marc expressed that he is focussed on recognising quality over quantity. “I’ve come across officials with various degrees of knowledge and experience. I’ve had people tell me they’ve been officiating for many years, and when I work with them it doesn’t always translate; and then there are others who doubt themselves, but I can see they could go on to become well experienced officials. So, there’s a quality over quantity approach as well. The beauty of the IMMAF course is that we don’t push them out, we give officials a banding to say they’re at an A,B or C level.” As the IMMAF approaches the announcement of its 50th national member, its work in developing the grass roots of amateur MMA with a unified approach to officiating around the world is  flourishing. This follows an active 2015 which saw the second IMMAF World Championships of Amateur MMA take place in Las Vegas, in conjunction UFC International Fight Week, plus the inaugural European Open Championships in Walsall, England. “What we’re doing is unprecedented, I’m a purist and my reputation is built on doing things the correct way. The growth of the IMMAF in 2015 has exploded. It’s a once in a lifetime movement,  it’s like the stars have aligned and I have respect for each member on the IMMAF board. It’s being lead in the right direction and by the right people with a single common goal. Everybody is together. I can’t praise the direction of IMMAF enough; I don’t want to understate it. It’s everything that I’ve envisioned since my involvement with the sport.” Written by lead writer and website manager, Jorden Curran  

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