Guidelines for Youth Events

Introduction & Guidelines for Organisers of MMA Competitions

1. Rationale

Grassroots sport forms an important part of Talent Identification and Development Pathways, which IMMAF offers to the practitioners of amateur MMA.

While the preeminent short-term objective of participation in sports competition is to win, the prominent long-term objective is to help young athletes develop physically, psychologically and socially.

Therefore, IMMAF promotes a special and caring attitude towards the youth MMA sport and advocates that:

  • Young athletes are not “small adults”
  • Youth sport is only an introduction to the full game, which is far too complex and physiologically demanding for young athletes to be instantly exposed to
  • Youth sport is a vital “part of the learning curve”
  • Youth sport needs to provide an appropriate learning environment, which in the long-term can help to identify and nurture talent.
  • The process of growth and maturation of children is diverse and individualised, and we may very often see early developers and late developers competing in one age group.

With regards to the above considerations and the recommendations of the IMMAF Medical Committee, IMMAF strongly recommends that all National Federations and event organisers require the minimum technical standards, technical restrictions and modified rules for all national events for Youths A (age 16-17), Youths B (age 14-15) and Youths C (age 12-13), as described in the following Guidelines.

2. Minimum Technical Standard

IMMAF strongly recommends to all National Federations, that all young participants of amateur MMA events are of the following minimum technical standard (according to the IMMAF Progression scheme):

IN 2019

Youth A (age 16-17) –    Yellow level+                                                           
Youth B (age 14-15) –   Yellow level+                                                     
Youth C (age 12-13) –    Yellow level+

IN 2020

Youth A (age 16-17) – Orange level+                                                           
Youth B (age 14-15) –   Orange level+                                                  
Youth C (age 12-13) –   Yellow level+

FROM 2020

Youth A (age 16-17) – Green level+                                                                  
Youth B (age 14-15) –   Orange level+                                                  
Youth C (age 12-13) –   Yellow level+

3. Technical Restrictions

Safety of young participants in competition remains the prime consideration of the IMMAF. Therefore, IMMAF is promotes a gradual introduction of young participants to the full game of mixed martial arts.

Technical restrictions will be applied for the youth age bands A (age 16-17), B (age 14-15) and C (age 12-13).

In particular, the “no head shots” policy is mandatory for all IMMAF youth competitions.

See IMMAF Youth Rules here


The modification of rules for young athletes is applied with the aim of reducing the complexity of the competitive scenarios, and hence allowing them more time to shape their performance techniques and skills, which they will be relying on later in the senior game. The purpose of this teaching strategy is to encourage the learner to develop a sound technical style as opposed to a strategy of quick wins based on physical domination.

Young contestants shall be judged using the conventional 10-point system.

In particular, “technical submissions” shall be observed in all Youth B and C events, i.e. referee will have to be sensitive in the stopping of a match having determined a submission based on a fully extended limb or the tight hold of the neck by the attacking athlete.

5. New Ethos


IMMAF recommends to all National Federations that they adopt and create a new ethos around youth amateur MMA, drawing a line between it and professional sports performance to break negative stereotypes and promote positive attitudes to the sport.

IMMAF recommends avoiding professional entertainment terms – “cage”, “fight”, “fighter” and to replacing them with “ring”, “field of play”, “competitor”, “athlete” etc.


Taking part in a youth sport event forms a big part of the ethos and culture of sport. IMMAF recommends to all National Federations that participants wear the appropriate attire for national events: red and blue rash-guards/shorts with the corresponding colour for gloves and shin-guards.