An Interview with German Mixed Martial Arts Federation President Clemens Werner
In June 2012 , the German Mixed Martial Arts Federation (GEMMAF) was officially formed to represent Germany under IMMAF.
Today, GEMMAF stands as the largest national MMA federation in Germany with its 50 member gyms, showing a 425% increase in membership over the last three years and with yet further scope for growth.
“With every championship we are growing and growing,” comments GEMMAF President Clemens Werner. “We are bringing the German MMA scene together.”
While MMA is not yet recognised as a sport in Germany and therefore unfunded, GEMMAF’s progress rests on the drive and passion of President Werner, Vice-president Lutz Heyden and treasurer Treasurer Mairia Cieschinger who contribute their time pro bono, supported by volunteers.
Against the odds, GEMMAF has successfully shaped itself into an organisation that carries out all the duties of national governing body in accordance with international governance and integrity standards.
As one of IMMAF’s most organised members, the federation holds board elections every 4 years, with the last taking place on 24 August 2019, and conducts monthly board meetings. Most recent board discussions, according to Werner, have related to the return to sport and sport competition in the wake of restrictions posed by COVID 19.
Core GEMMAF activities have included the education and licensing of coaches and officials.
“In 2019 we held a coach certification course with 22 participants. Because of COVID-19 and the government restrictions on gatherings and sport, we have not been able to hold further certification courses in 2020. We have therefore developed a program that corresponds with the German Olympic Committee and enables us to establish about 70% of coach certification seminars online. Participants will have to be physically present for just the practical part and the examinations.”
GEMMAF has also held 4 judge courses attended by more than 60 participants across 4 different locations, with 2 referee courses planned for the second half of 2020.
Another of GEMMAF’s achievements has been the establishment of a national competition circuit culminating in annual National Championships.
“We hold 4 regional championships as qualifier tournaments for the National Championships,” explains Werner. “Due to COVID 19 we have only managed to hold 1 regional championship this year, on 29 February in the south of Germany with about 60 participants. We are unlikely to be able to catch up on all our full competition calendar this year, but we wil try our best.”
To qualify for the National team for IMMAF international championships, GEMMAF administrates a ranking system, for which athletes can collect points through competing on the national circuit.
The German National Team has particularly made its mark in IMMAF’s women’s divisions. In 2019, junior women’s strawweight Anna Gaul earned the gold medal for Germany in the European and World Championships. Teammates Renaná Bruckstein and Clara Danssman also medalled in the Europeans, respectively winning silver in the women’s senior flyweight category and bronze in the women’s senior strawweight.
While Werner describes GEMMAF’s main focus as the development of the amateur sport, the federation is also responsible for the sanctioning and officiating of private, professional MMA events that include WE LOVE MMA, National Fighting Championship and German Cage Pioneer.
“For all these events we provide the officials and apply our ruleset and standards.”
Clemens himself serves as an official on major international shows including UFC, for whom he recently judged at UFC Fight Island, giving an indication of the standard of German officiating under GEMMAF.
Asked about GEMMAF’S proudest achievements, Werner comments:
“I think we can be proud of our development in the last 3 years. We emerged from a small federation with 8 member gyms into the biggest German MMA federation with about 50 member gyms. I think we are bringing the German MMA scene together with our tournaments, which is beautiful to see every time.”
Clemens is proud of GEMMAF’s recognition under IMMAF and its role in setting and implementing unified, global safety standards at a national level.
Asked about the biggest challenges faced by GEMMAF, Werner cites its reliance on volunteers and “being able to source new volunteers who are willing to invest their time.”
Looking forward, GEMMAF’s goal is to create regional federations within Germany to meet national recognition criteria, “and of course, getting back to holding championships and events as soon as possible.”
Main Image: Anna Gaul wins gold for Team Germany at the 2019 IMMAF World Championships. Pictured with GEMMAF Vice-president Lutz Heyden (right)