Outside the ring

Progression during the pandemic 

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the IMMAF has continued to grow and has not stopped its efforts to further educate member federations and discuss the direction of the organisation in the future. It has achieved this through online videoconferences with national leaders.

The IMMAF has hosted monthly meetings and presentations on Zoom to cover new and informative topics, ensuring that engagement with members and others is maintained. 

Discussions have covered the push for youth development in 2021, as well as question and answer sessions with IMMAF President Kerrith Brown.

The sessions have been held in a number of languages, proving the IMMAF's universal inclusivity. These include English, French, Russian, Spanish and Arabic.

The meetings are set to continue indefinitely due to their success.

Building closer networks with member federations

Part of the IMMAF's plan to further develop MMA is through its Regional Committees, which were first unveiled in 2020 with the creation of the African Committee. 

The African Committee was formed to help deliver the IMMAF's strategy and goals more effectively at national level. There are plans to create more Committees in the future for the rest of the regions of the world.

Some of the African Committee's tasks include:

  • Promoting African MMA to benefit the African IMMAF member federations
  • Assisting the development of training methodology and pathways for coaching and education
  • Providing administrative and communication support for members
  • Organising African events and competitions
  • Supporting national efforts to gain recognition from Governments and National Olympic Committees
  • Providing an ethical framework of good governance in alignment with the IMMAF's standards and guidelines

"This is a key strategic development for IMMAF and proves that our organisation has reached a mature stage of its development," said IMMAF President Kerrith Brown at the time of the announcement.

"The local needs and priorities of MMA are best understood by those on the ground. 

"IMMAF will support each new Committee as they develop their own structures and plans."

Peace Through MMA

The IMMAF has launched a "Peace Through MMA" Commission which will focus on developing programmes to socially benefit young people and prevent violence.

"MMA is a universal language recognised by youth worldwide, with the power to break boundaries and to unite," said IMMAF President Kerrith Brown at its launch.

"As I have experienced in my own journey, martial arts require personal transformation, the development of self-knowledge, self-discipline, honour and respect."

The Committee is chaired by Danny Corr of the Ulster Amateur MMA Association in Northern Ireland. He was recognised for his youth project "Fight to Unite", which aims to combat the social and economic problems of the area after decades of conflict, and its lasting impact.

Corr is joined on the Committee by Denis Rowan, an expert in international conflict resolution who was part of the Northern Ireland peace process in the aftermath of the civil conflict known as "The Troubles", which spanned from 1968 to 1998.

Corr and Rowan are working with the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association in the Republic of Ireland to organise a cross-border peace project along with a nationally-recognised education programme.

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The IMMAF hopes to continue the growth of MMA through an education system which qualifies coaches, particularly in underdeveloped regions for the sport. 

The IMMAF Coach Education and Certification Programme helps coaches develop competently, while gaining presentation and teaching skills. They are left with strong knowledge for training athletes.

The aim of the programme is to set standards for coaching practice in amateur MMA worldwide. Helping coaches develop and acquire an appropriate level of technical competence in training is another goal, as well as regulating coaching practice and ensuring that professional development is continuously in place. Coaches are also informed of the latest developments in the sport.

Three levels of the programme are in place, covering the coaching of beginners, advanced athletes and elite performance athletes.

Elite level coaching requires aspects such as training theory, methodology and psychology, while the lower tiers help coaches to understand growth, age and maturation of younger athletes to assist with their long-term development.

The programme also adheres to all compulsory policies and requirements of national education standards, including first aid, child protection and criminal record checks.


The IMMAF requires referees and judges to have a licence to work at sanctioned events, with these awarded following the completion of the IMMAF International Referee and Judges Certification course.

Courses take two days to complete and cater for experienced officials. Both theoretical and practical teaching and assessments are included.

The qualification needs to be gained before officiating at IMMAF Championship events.

To gain entry to the course, an official needs to have completed a national level federation course, or possess a national license or an IMMAF officials certificate.

They also need two years of officiating experience and a recommendation from their National Federation.


There are three levels of licensing for cutmen, with professional licenses issued at the second-tier - national level - and at the top-tier - international level.

Cutmen attend to athletes in between rounds and treat any physical damage sustained.

The entry level course "Class C" enables participants to shadow an experienced IMMAF Class A cutman, and covers duties such as hand-wrapping and greasing athletes before they compete.

A minimum of three months must pass before Class C course participants may sit their Class B exams, which lead to a national level licence.

Class B cutmen can work at national amateur matches only and must serve at a minimum of 20 MMA events, with an average of 280 bouts over a minimum time-frame of two years, before being allowed to apply for a Class A licence.

Class A licence holders must work at a minimum of 30 MMA events and approximately 420 bouts in a three-year time period in order to retain their licence.

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Progression pathways

The IMMAF Talent Pathway, the governing body's progression scheme, aims to create a route for amateur athletes who hope to turn professional as an adult, and gives guidance to athletes from the age of six upwards.

IMMAF guidelines treat young athletes separately from adults, and consider their participation as an introduction into the sport and part of a learning curve. This is far removed from the intensity and physical demand that elite MMA requires.

Restrictions include no shots to the head being allowed in all IMMAF youth competitions.

Youth MMA "A" rules allow 16 and 17-year-olds to compete in three two-minute rounds with a one minute rest period, while "B" rules allow for a single round of four minutes for 14 and 15-year-olds, and a single round of three minutes for 12 and 13-year-olds.

Leg submissions, calf crushers, wristlocks and guillotine chokeholds are banned under "C" rules, with similar rules existing for the "B" category with the exception of leg submissions.

"B" rules allow for a straight Achilles lock and a figure-four ankle lock with straight leg, but still prohibit moves like knee bars.

Standing guillotines and suplexes are prohibited under the "A" rules, but leg submissions are allowed.


There is a minimum grade requirement for each IMMAF competition that is announced prior to the event, and is included in its handbook. 

Coaches are free to organise grading assessments both formally and informally.

The minimum pass mark for every technical element of a grading is 80 per cent, but competitions may require a higher grading.

There is an app available to complete this grading, or it can be filled out on paper.

Technical criteria for grading is as follows:  

Striking Technique
  • Posture
  • Balance
  • Space control
  • Footwork
  • Bodywork
  • Handwork
  • Fluency
Striking Combinations
  • Balance
  • Space control
  • Footwork
  • Bodywork
  • Handwork
  • Fluency
  • Rhythm
Standing Techniques
  • Understanding the best situation for action
  • Understanding the action-reaction involved
  • Best grip or clamp
  • Use of the fence
  • Direction of forces
  • Landing position 
  • Control
Groundwork techniques
  • Starting position
  • Understanding the action-reaction involved
  • Body, arm, leg catch or grip
  • Use of the fence
  • Direction of forces
  • Control