The IMMAF has responded to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport Inquiry into Concussion in Sport ©IMMAF

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) has submitted evidence online to the United Kingdom Government's Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Inquiry into Concussion in Sport, following criticism of the sport by elected politician Julian Knight.

Knight, who chairs the DCMS Committee, wrote to the BBC director general Tim Davie to ask whether "due diligence" had been carried out on the impact viewing the sport could have on children.

His letter followed an announcement last month that the BBC, during 2021, would have rights to broadcast all mixed martial arts events staged by Bellator live on its iPlayer streaming service.

Knight’s letter also followed the DCMS Committee being told by Peter McCabe, chief executive of the Headway charity, that he would immediately ban both boxing and cage fighting "as the primary objective of each sport is to injure or knock out the opposing fighter".

"He said that while other sports might risk brain injury as a consequence of participation, it was almost a primary objective in both boxing and mixed martial arts," Knight’s letter read.

"Given the current focus there has been in the media on concussion in sport, including several thoughtful pieces from the BBC (for example, the interview with the daughter of Scotland footballer Gordon McQueen) it seems strange that the BBC should be raising the prominence of mixed martial arts in this way.

"Indeed, by helping fund and broadcast live events, it could be said that the BBC was now a leading cheerleader for the sport in the UK.

"I invite you to write to the Committee, before 31 March, our deadline for submitting evidence to this inquiry, outlining what due diligence the BBC has carried out on the safety of the sport with regard to concussion protocols, fighter safety and the likely influence this may have on young children who may seek to replicate the things they see on iPlayer."

The IMMAF says the organisation and the English Mixed Martial Arts Association (EMMAA) have now submitted evidence to the inquiry prior to tomorrow’s deadline.

The governing body, which is based in the UK, criticised "unsubstantiated references" to mixed martial arts in the first hearing.

The IMMAF and EMMAA’s submission reportedly expresses concern about the lack of Government regulation of combat sports in the UK, which they cite as a factor creating great risk to participants.

"There is no law in this country that requires participants and stakeholders of martial arts or combat sports to adhere to any minimum safety standard or to comply with any form of governance," said IMMAF chief executive Densign White.

"And for as long as MMA is not officially recognised as a sport by Sport England, our power to govern or to regulate through local authorities is further undermined.

"It is our view, that it is the responsibility of the Government to ensure that the health and safety of participants in sport is guaranteed, as they are the only agents with the power to do so."

The IMMAF says it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the health and safety of participants in sport is guaranteed ©IMMAF
The IMMAF says it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that the health and safety of participants in sport is guaranteed ©IMMAF

The IMMAF has said it has produced pioneering work with UK-based medical charity Safe MMA, and its in-event medical protocol.

Safe MMA is cited as providing independent medical screening, management of injury suspensions and the provision of medical advice and information to athletes.

The IMMAF says Safe MMA’s medical board and panel consist of volunteer doctors and medical professionals with no commercial connection to any governing body or event organiser.

The organisation added that it stands alone in combat sports in its banning of head strikes for under-18s, based on the reasonable age of consent.

The IMMAF said the sport also has as positive social impact, as well as physical benefits of training.

"We believe that international sports NGOs have too much power in deciding which sports National Sports Authorities should recognise," said Kerrith Brown, IMMAF President.

"As has been well documented in the international sports press, IMMAF has been blocked from gaining international sport recognition for, what we believe are commercial reasons, despite meeting all known governance criteria.

"The ultimate impact of these politics at a grassroots level in many countries is that participants of non-recognised sports can find themselves outlawed, as they are discriminated against in accessing basic medical and professional services that should mitigate risk, thus making sports less safe.

"We are keen to work with the British authorities to address this."

The DCMS has heard evidence from boxing, ice hockey, skeleton, boxing, football and rugby figures to date during its hearings into concussion in sport.

The inquiry is aimed at understanding potential implications of successful legal action and what impact that could have on sport in the longer term.