IMMAF International Mixed Martial Arts Federation Wed, 19 Sep 2018 12:37:14 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 New Zealand’s Gase Sanita Targets History and Second World Title Wed, 19 Sep 2018 12:18:18 +0000 By lead writer/photographer, Jorden Curran

The cancellation of a professional debut has afforded New Zealand’s Gase Sanita the opportunity to make history at the world’s premier amateur MMA championships.

Also following the postponement of China hosting the IMMAF Asian Open, the reigning women’s lightweight world champion was among the vast majority of registered athletes to immediately transfer for early registration to the upcoming IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships. She will represent the New Zealand national team from 11-18 November in Manama, Bahrain.

“This November I will further drop in weight division (to featherweight) and try bring another gold for the team,” Sanita wrote via social media. “I’m more determined, focused and driven to get the job done. throughout this camp I have learnt a lot about myself as a fighter and a person. I have pushed and definitely stretched my mental limitations and physical passed what even I believed I could do.”

“I cannot express and share enough how truly thankful we are for everyone’s support! Without everyone’s support nothing of what we have achieved or are wanting to achieve would ever be possible! We are truly blessed with the most amazing team of supporters.”

Success upon her return to Bahrain could see the Kiwi standout become the first woman to win a second world title, and in an additional weight bracket. However, rivaling Sanita for the achievement will be Italy’s featherweight world champion Fabiana Giampa, who also returns to target a lower weight, this time entering the women’s bantamweight division.

During the 2017 gold medal campaign, Sanita showcased her potential in the semi-finals as the grappling based contender boxed her way through a thrilling a split-decision encounter with perennial top contender Julia Dorny. Sanita edged the scorecard victory with a persistent effort to overcome the reach of her much taller opposition.

Sanita lands a right right on Kaycee Blake in the 2017 IMMAF World Championship final

Once again facing larger opposition, Sanita met the UK’s Kaycee Blake in the 2017 final and with little delay proceeded to nullify the Brit on the ground and hunt for a choke before finishing the bout with a second round arm-bar submission to take home the gold medal. The reigning IMMAF world champion picked up momentum this month ahead of Bahrain 2018 with another arm-bar submission triumph on the national circuit.

Former amateur sensation Jose Torres was the first athlete to win back-to-back IMMAF world titles. Representing the USA, the now UFC contender twice went all the way at men’s bantamweight to earn gold medals in 2014 and 2015. The feat was equaled in 2016 by Will Starks, also of the USA national team, who retained the welterweight crown. Sweden’s Irman Smajic was the third the be crowned a two-time IMMAF world champion, winning the heavyweight gold in 2016 and 2017.

Athlete registration for the 2018 World Championships closes on October 1. For more event and team information visit

Japan MMA Federation Issues Heartfelt Message Following the Death of MMA Icon “Kid” Yamamoto Tue, 18 Sep 2018 17:41:28 +0000 By lead writer, Jorden Curran

IMMAF was saddened to learn that Japanese MMA icon, Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto, had passed away on Tuesday September 18 at the age of 41, following his battle with cancer.

From his roots as a young wrestling prodigy, the son of a Japanese Olympian progressed to achieve K-1 and MMA stardom, capturing the imagination of Japan’s mainstream.

The charismatic Yamamoto rose to sensational prominence at the forefront of Japanese MMA throughout the noughties. Making his debut in 2001, Yamamoto was renown for taking on much larger opposition and pioneered the prominence of lighter weight divisions, competing as a lightweight, featherweight and bantamweight, eventually breaking into the UFC ranks in 2011.

Following his passing, the Japan MMA Federation (JMMAF) today issued a touching message for the national hero:

We are in deep sorrow to hear that “Kid” passed away.

Norifumi “Kid” Yamamoto began his sensational MMA career in 2001, the beginning of 21st century.

Just few years later, he grew to become the embodiment of modern MMA in Japan. Kid became the superstar of Japanese MMA and was influential in widely opening the market for recognition of smaller weight competitors.

Kid fought not only MMA, but also in K-1 rules. Despite regularly being the smallest competitor, he showed great skill, ability and spirit that moved entire audiences.

Many athletes of the Japan MMA Federation (JMMAF) say how Kid is their favorite fighter and inspiration for starting their own journey in MMA.

From athletes, coaches, officials and fans, Japan loves you and respects you, Kid.

Never to be forgotten, thank you and forever,

The Japan MMA Federation.

Theebaan Govindasamy Picks Up Asian MMA ‘Amateur of the Year’ Award Mon, 17 Sep 2018 11:03:59 +0000 By lead writer/photographer, Jorden Curran

Presented by The Fight Nation, the inaugural Asian MMA Awards took place last week in Hong Kong.

Invited to represent the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, IMMAF equipment manager Jaine Shah was in attendance to present the award for Amateur of the Year, picked up by Malaysia’s Theebaan Govindasamy.

Hailing from Kuala Lumpur, the 28-year-old competed in the middleweight division of the 2017 IMMAF World Championships in Manama, Bahrain. Govindasamy eliminated Mexico’s Alan Garcia via a unanimous decision in the tournament’s opening round before facing defeat against high ranked Australian Joseph Luciano.

From April 2016 to November 2017, the Karate specialist remained undefeated with a streak of 8 victories under the regional Malaysian Invasion banner, regulated by the Malaysia Mixed Martial Arts Association – the nation’s affiliated IMMAF representative.

With 22 years of karate experience, many spent competing for his country at international competition, Govindasamy was the official Ambassador for Malaysian Youth Sports at the Beijing Olympics. The eight-time national karate champion began training MMA little more than three years ago and has transitioned to become a dual-sports standout.


European king Ryan Spillane commits to mastering heavyweight ranks at 2018 Amateur World Championships Wed, 12 Sep 2018 16:57:07 +0000 By lead writer, Jorden Curran

Ryan Spillane embodies all that the IMMAF platform aims to provide for developing mixed martial artists from a young age. He will be Ireland’s one to watch this year at the 2018 IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships.

From an 18-year-old with a patchy record to being crowned European Open gold medalist at age 21, the heavyweight standout is on a compelling journey to master the heavyweight ranks and prove the extent of his evolution on the premier stage for amateur MMA.

A matured Spillane was showcased this year at the 2018 Senior European Open Championships in Bucharest. The once inexperienced hopeful displayed his best form to date with speed and technical awareness to stop both Matias Antilla (Finland) and 2017 European finalist Daniel Yankov (Bulgaria), each in under 90 seconds.

Spillane’s initial response was that his first IMMAF title is a sign to make the professional jump, but after a sit down with coach Liam-Ogg Griffin, his aspirations are not over, the amateur pinnacle is yet to be conquered.

“It made more sense to finish this year with a world gold then smash the pro ranks in 2018,” Spillane told “It was always my plan to turn pro fairly soon. It was always the plan to turn pro after winning a gold, as it would skyrocket me. After having a sit down with Liam it made more sense to finish it with these tournaments, I’m still very young in this game and I’m in no rush.”

Spillane’s last three wins on the IMMAF platform have come via first round stoppages and with notable submission talents. For Coach Griffin, the ability of Spillane has made itself known. However, the mission now is to grasp the reigns for controlled momentum before an eventual pro debut.

“Ryan has had some ups and downs over the last couple of years,” he said.

“In the last 12 months Ryan has worked really hard on sports psychology, his strength and conditioning and getting to fight form, and he’s managed to do that. I want him to maintain that consistent form for 6, 8, even 12 months; I don’t want him to have any doubts that where he’s competing now is the real Ryan. I want him to go into his pro debut on a surge of confidence.

As one of the Republic of Ireland’s national team coaches, Griffin hopes for athletes to maximize the potential of IMMAF championships on offer, using the platform as an accurate measurement of progress and ability with up to five opponents in the space of a week long tournament.

“With IMMAF particularly, Ryan is always guaranteed multiple opponents. On the domestic scene, he had three fights cancelled in the first half of 2018 in January, February and March.

“I want him to have at least 20 fights as an amateur before turning pro. That’s a figure that I have in my head for all ammy athletes here with aspirations of turning pro, from watching some guys who have turned pro early and are losing fights and quitting [the sport].”

For amateur competitors, defeats are merely lessons that are to be faced sooner, rather than risking exposure as  professionals. Upon the transition, the slate is wiped clean and the medals earned become the stepping stone to early prominence.

“For the longevity of Ryan’s career, if he gets all his learning phase done now, we’ll attack pro as a seasoned veteran. There are still a few technical things that I want to fix and it’s at the amateur stage where you do that tweaking, not as pro.”

The 2018 World Championships take place in Manama, Bahrain from from 11-18 November. Spillane will be one of the fastest rising athletes in attendance and will return to take a second shot at the gold, this time entering with the title of European Champion and as the most accomplished heavyweight of the year thus far.

IMMAF Welcomes MMA Cymru for Wales Fri, 07 Sep 2018 14:45:00 +0000 Wales has owned a presence in IMMAF Championships since 2015, producing standouts in gold medallists, Jack Shore (2015 European Championships), Josh Ellis (2015 World Championships) and Roan Crocker (2018 European Junior Championships, as well as silver medallist, Kaycee Blake (2017 World Championships) – all competing under the flag of the United Kingdom.

Now Wales can boast its own national MMA federation, MMA Cymru, headed up by President Chris Rees.

MMA Cymru is a Community Interest Company founded with the purpose of introducing a regulated structure for MMA within Wales to the benefit the local community, in particular the MMA community. Its primary goals are stated as follows;

1) Implement structure to gain recognition for MMA
2) Provide support and structure for athletes and clubs within Wales
3) Align the individual clubs towards the end goal towards representing Wales at an international level
4) Create an infrastructure to develop athletes from grass roots to elite level within the sport

Supporting Rees on the founding committee are Richard Shore (Technical Director), Neil Watkins (Financial Director), Eira Culverwell (Secretary) and Ricky Wright (Business Development). Founding member gyms are Tillery Combat Centre, The Mat Academy, Nails Fight Club, Craig Ewers Academy and CRA Pembroke.

MMA Cymru will be working in collaboration with the United Kingdom Mixed Martial Arts Federation (UKMMAF) in areas of shared interest, such as officials’ and coaches’ education.

IMMAF President Kerrith Brown said:

“Following a meeting with the UKMMAF and UK ‘home countries’ stakeholders earlier this year, the IMMAF board has agreed to adopt the ‘FIFA model’, which is consistent with the existence of the Ulster MMA Association, already representing Northern Ireland under IMMAF.  Should MMA become an Olympic sport, the home countries would need to unite under the UKMMAF, but in IMMAF Championships each will be entitled to send its own team. Benefits of this structure include focused regional development, alongside a mutual expansion in expertise, to accelerate the development and recognition of the sport. Other exciting opportunities that open up include future UKMMAF home countries tournaments.”

MMA Cymru President Chris Rees said:

“’Wales has been a hotbed for MMA for some time now, with athletes competing at the top levels of professional MMA as well as medalling in IMMAF Championships. The formation of a Welsh Federation was a natural progression and something I’m very excited to be a part of.

“I intend to make sure that we have full representation across the whole of Wales so that we can develop into one of the leading IMMAF member countries both competitively and structurally and gain the recognition which the sport of MMA deserves.

“I’d like to take the opportunity to thank the IMMAF board for their faith in this new structure, and to the UKMMAF for their continued support in the formation and development of the home countries.

“The level of competition at the IMMAF tournaments is truly phenomenal with skilful and dedicated athletes across the weight divisions, but the Welsh athletes are ready and able to step up and show just how loudly the Welsh dragon can roar!”

UKMMAF Chairman Windy Miller said:

“The Welsh Federation is an integral part of the UKMMAF and together we are moving forward to develop the sport of MMA in the UK. UKMMAF is pleased to announcel an England Team of thirty-seven will be attending the IMMAF – WMMAA Unified World Championships. We are also pleased to announce the formation of the Welsh Team under MMA Cymru president and coach, Chris Rees.”

MMA Cymru President Chris Rees (2nd right) with UKMMAF Chairman Windy Miller (3rd right) at IMMAF meeting in April 2018
Welsh Jack Shore champions at 2015 IMMAF European Championships
‘Another Step into the Mainstream’: Aussie MMA Federation Praises Free-to-Air UFC Deal for TUF 28 Thu, 06 Sep 2018 14:05:08 +0000 By lead writer, Jorden Curran

The Daily Telegraph in Australia recently revealed another mainstream boost for Mixed Martial Arts in the nation, announcing that the UFC had signed off on a deal for free-to-air showing of the hit reality TV show The Ultimate Fighter: 28, currently underway on Channel 10.

The season stars Australia’s own UFC middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker, alongside rival Kelvin Gastelum, as each man leads his team of UFC hopefuls bidding to earn a contract with the World’s leading professional MMA organisation.

Whittaker was heralded as ‘the new face of Australian sport’. The 27-year-old got his own start with the UFC via the The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) platform, ultimately winning ‘The Smashes’ series in 2012, of which pitted Australian contenders against a team of UK rivals.

The Smashes aired down under on FX Australia, but the now UFC middleweight champion makes his TUF return on Channel 10, this time as a coach and under the acclaimed new format that saw a sleeker production style first implemented for TUF 17.

Joe Minehan, president of the International MMA Federation of Australia, looks forward to enjoying the latest mainstream step and the boost that it may give to the nationwide fan base. He commented: “IMMAFA is very pleased about the agreement between the UFC and channel 10 to air the Ultimate Fighter on free to air TV. The UFC have been very successful with this great product and featuring our home grown Robert Whittaker will help grow our fan base in Australia. This is one more step to bringing MMA into the mainstream sporting arena.”

In addition to the series broadcast, Channel 10 will air the TUF 28 Finale live from Las Vegas on December 1, plus the UFC’s next upcoming date in Australia taking place the following day in Adelaide. In November of 2015, over 56,000 fans attended UFC 193: Rousey vs. Holm, at the Etihad stadium in Melbourne, setting a new UFC attendance record.

The historic Ultimate Fighter Season 1 is cemented as a cornerstone of the UFC’s success, capped off by the sensational 2005 Fight of the Year between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar. The UFC will hope for TUF 28 to capture the attention of Australia in similar fashion.

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Athlete Health Remains at Risk Following House Bill 1388 in Missouri, USA; Local Combat Sport Events ‘May Go Out of Business Altogether’ Wed, 05 Sep 2018 17:43:46 +0000 By Dane McGuire, IMMAF U.S. Correspondent

The United State Mixed Martial Arts Kick International Federation (UMMAF,) headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, USA can no longer sanction amateur MMA in the state.

Representative David Gregory’s House Bill 1388, also known as the “child safety and deregulation bill” according to The Missouri Times, is effective as of August 28. This means control over sanctioning amateur MMA, kickboxing, as well as pro wrestling, has shifted to the Missouri Division of Professional Registration’s Office of Athletics.

Olympic combat sports such as boxing remain unaffected by HB 1388 thanks to their protected status under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1978. Acceptance of MMA by the IOC would, in turn, render Gregory’s bill obsolete despite the fact it is law at present.

The legislation proposed by Gregory also prevents competitors under the age of 18, hurting the UMMAF’s United States Fight League (USFL) youth development branch, which is a requirement for the potential Olympic recognition of MMA.

“Now the regulation being proposed is not allowing kids under the age of 18 to get their heads bashed in, in a cage fight. They can still train, they can still fight in all mixed areas of martial arts, they just can’t ground and pound in a cage,” Gregory said by way of The Missouri Times in March.

The USFL held its sole event in Missouri on August 4, an event with rules tailored to safe youth competition in which there were no injuries to athletes (aged 8-17 under USFL rules.) Additionally, the use of headgear is a requirement at all USFL events.

“We believe this law was drafted to halt dangerous youth MMA competitions and not jiu-jitsu, pankration or continuous sparring karate,” USFL President Jon Frank said. “The USFL Class B rules prohibit knockouts, head strikes, dangerous takedowns and dangerous submissions. Upon application, these rules track an overall injury rate of 1.5% after almost 1500 athletic exposures with zero concussions. Past practices of prohibition have shown increases in dangerous and unregulated competitions, something no one wants.”

UMMAF Vice President Ryan Brueggeman commented:

“The ramifications of this legislation are far reaching and at the same time perplexing. With the Missouri State Athletic Commission taking over sanctioning of Amateur MMA, we can expect fewer events within the state. This means less opportunity to compete for these athletes.

“In addition, with the way the new rules are written, amateur athletes would be allowed to use professional level techniques after just 5 fights. This would disqualify those fighters from the UMMAF National Amateur Championships and any IMMAF tournament, anywhere in the world.

“States need to start looking on a global level and understand where the sport of amateur MMA is going. UMMAF has had to disqualify many amateurs from competing in international competition because their state has allowed certain techniques in prior competition that would label the athlete a pro.

“UMMAF attempted to reach out to every State Senator and House Representative in the state of Missouri by phone and by email to inform them that this bill would hurt amateur athletes in the state and rob them of opportunity and safe competition. We did not receive a response.”

HB 1388 also subjects amateur MMA, kickboxing, and pro wrestling events to a $25,000 surety bond as part of the licensing process. The bond was previously a mere $5,000. The increase will also stymie professional events which also feature amateur bouts. A number of promoters based in the state may go out of business altogether.

“It is very concerning to UMMAF that the circumstances around this bill have been kept under wraps, and that the Missouri State Government has relied on false information provided by Tim Lueckenhoff, Executive Director of the Missouri State Athletic Commission, as a means of funneling money to the commission. UMMAF struggles to accept the sudden concern of Mr. Lueckenhoff regarding safety, when evidence leans to the contrary.

“Most importantly,” the UMMAF president added, “it means that a fighter could be knocked out at an UMMAF regulated event and because the state would not honor the suspension recommendation levied by UMMAF and the Missouri state licensed physician that issued it, he or she could fight the very next week on another card in an event sanctioned by someone else, including the Missouri State Athletic Commission, after having been severely concussed.

“The next issue is the fee that UMMAF paid to be a sanctioning entity in Missouri. In other states such as Nevada, UMMAF is a licensed sanctioning entity after having our rules and procedures approved by the NSAC along with our licensing fee. When we regulate an event, we send those results to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The results and any medical suspensions are entered into the national ABC database. We followed the same procedure in Missouri after having paid a fee for our license, yet the results were entered into the ABC database as ‘unsanctioned’ with medical suspensions unrecognized.

“It begs the question, what were we paying for? Why is the State of Missouri suddenly worried about fighter safety when it is clear that Tim Lueckenhoff was not interested before? The only answer I can up come up with is that this is a money grab for the Missouri State Athletic Commission.

“Amateur MMA should not be used as a method of funding a state athletic commission, because it only drives up the price of the events that grass roots promoters put on and in some cases puts amateur athletes in financial difficulty just to be able to compete.

“It is very concerning to UMMAF that the circumstances around this bill have been kept under wraps, and that the Missouri State Government has relied on false information provided by Tim Lueckenhoff, Executive Director of the Missouri State Athletic Commission as a means of funneling money to the commission and state.  We cannot accept that all of a sudden Mr. Lueckenhoff is concerned about safety when the evidence is clearly contrary.”

For more information and full report, visit

IMMAF to Award First MMA Black Belts as Coaches Certification Comes to Mexico Mon, 03 Sep 2018 21:11:51 +0000 Pictured: Detail from the Yellow Level of the IMMAF Syllabus, currently under development.


The International MMA Federation (IMMAF) holds its third MMA Coaches Education and Certification Course in Mexico from 21 to 23  September 2018, hosted by Federacion de Artes Marciales Mixtas Equidad y Juego Limpio (FAMMEJL).

The two-day, Level 1 course will be IMMAF’s first outside of Europe and will see the licensing of Mexico’s first twenty to thirty MMA coaches. Meanwhile, a few elite trainers nominated by the National Federation (FAMMEJL) will be fast-tracked to Level 3 and receive IMMAF’s first black belts, based on their outstanding experience.

The IMMAF Coach Education and Certification Programme (CECP) is a three-tiered progression of the coaching competency for MMA. Level 1, 2 and 3 each correspond to a specific part of the participation pyramid– beginners, advanced and elite performance athletes. Its aims include coaches’ professional development, the setting of standards for coaching practice in amateur MMA worldwide and the regulation of coaching practice.

The Level 1 Coaches License is awarded based on practical and theoretical training and assessment, as well as coaching hours. Syllabus modules include:

  • How to Coach Athletes in an Effective, Safe and Ethical way
  • Know Your Athlete (Basic Sport Science 1 & 2)
  • How Do We Learn New Movements and Practice Our Skills?
  • How to Plan and Conduct a Training Session
  • Fundamental Movements
  • Techniques on Demand (e.g. Principles of Submissions etc.)
  • Know Your Sport (Rules)
  • Grading Syllabus (IMMAF Talent Development Pathway)
  • Coaching Methods and Strategies for a Training Session

The awarding of the first generation of MMA black belts and Level 3 licenses will be discretionary, based on the decision of a dedicated coaching panel.

The IMMAF coaches’ pathway and education programme is being progressed by IMMAF’s new Director of Development, Dr. Andrew Moshanov, former Head of Development for the International Sambo Federation (FIAS) and previous Technical Director for the British Judo Association.

FAMMEJL President, Raul Salas Navarro, commented:

“On this first IMMAF coaching course in the Americas, coaches will obtain valuable teaching tools to further their development and will have the opportunity to become certified in the exciting world of mixed martial arts, supported by the IMMAF, the worldwide governing body for MMA .

“They will learn the IMMAF methodologies that are being applied internationally for the setting of student examinations and validation of grades for MMA. Don’t miss this first coaching certification course to become one of the first certified and recognised instructors of MMA in the Americas!”

IMMAF President Kerrith Brown said:

“IMMAF’s Coach Education and Certification Programme provides a key strand of IMMAF’s Talent Development Pathway, providing MMA coaches with the skills and knowledge to develop participants of the sport, with respect to latest sports science theory and safe coaching practice.

“IMMAF looks to put a stake in the ground over the coming months, with the rolling out of its first student assessments under certified coaches and the awarding of grades. In acknowledgement of the pioneers and exceptional elite talent that pre-date the IMMAF system, we will also be awarding honorary black-belts based on outstanding experience.”

IMMAF remembers John McCain as the catalyst for MMA evolution Mon, 03 Sep 2018 18:27:05 +0000 By lead writer, Jorden Curran

John McCain (pictured above) was laid to rest on September 1 having passed away on August 25 at the age of 81, bringing an end to his fight against brain cancer.

The former Arizona State Senator and military officer was among the most recognisable faces in U.S. politics, best known internationally for running against Barrack Obama for President of the United States in 2008.

During the Vietnam War, McCain was captured and held as a prisoner for five years, subjected to torture for refusing to reveal tactical information.

In Mixed Martial Arts, McCain remains one of the sport’s most influential historical figures.

“With Senator McCain passing, I’m so struck by the extraordinary and courageous life he led,” IMMAF president Kerrith Brown Stated. “His legacy in the evolution of MMA is also not to be forgotten. Through his forcing of regulation in the U.S., the Unified Rules and today’s MMA was born.”

The former Navy man was among the sport’s most significant detractors, at one time its greatest rival.

McCain infamously labelled MMA as “human cockfighting” in 1996. The term has become synonymous with the early days of the UFC and the sport’s explosion in popularity, as it gained traction from a polarizing lack of rules in the Octagon. McCain was later among the developers of the Muhammed Ali Act introduced into federal law in 1999 to protect the welfare of boxers.

Due to connections and business ties within the sport of boxing, McCain’s motives for taking on ‘the world’s fastest growing sport’ were questioned. Regardless, the UFC’s broadcasting revenue stream took a major blow and events were banned across the nation.

However, the political challenge ultimately served as the catalyst for UFC owners of the time to launch a counter-offence that would see the sport become the titan that it is today.

Changes were made for what would become the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts, developed by expert veterans, spearheaded by UFC commissioner Jeff Blatnick and senior referee John McCarthy. MMA was subsequently legitimised and first sanctioned at the U.S. State level in the year 2000 before parent company SEG sold the promotion to Zuffa in early 2001; brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta and business partner Dana White, who together took the sport to even greater heights.

Over time McCain developed a respect for the sport that enabled personal taste to be set aside. By 2014, he was telling UFC champion Jon Jones that he would be watching his UFC 172 light-heavyweight title bout with Glover Teixeira.

“I approve of them (MMA/the UFC) now, I don’t enjoy it as much as I do regular boxing, because that’s what I grew up with,” McCain said in 2015. “But I don’t have objections to it now.”

McCain stood beside now former UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta in 2014, along with Bellator MMA promoter Scott Coker, allied as combat sport stakeholders committing to a study investigating the effects of head trauma.

John McCain remains a divisive figure in the MMA community, but that would hardly phase a man of his long service in the upper echelons of politics. Undeniably, McCain holds claim to a significant role in the sport’s history, as one of the most influential figures in MMA’s defining era.

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Leeds United Legend, Rep. of Ireland International Gary Kelly Sponsors Ciarán Clarke for Amateur MMA World Championships Fri, 31 Aug 2018 17:10:14 +0000 By lead writer, Jorden Curran

As Ciarán Clarke prepares for the 2018 IMMAF-WMMAA World Championships, he gave thanks this week to former Republic of Ireland international and Leeds United legend, Gary Kelly, who presented him with sponsorship in the lead up to the World’s premier competition for amateur mixed martial arts standouts.

“Gary approached me one day in the gym where I train boxing and conditioning,” Clarke told, “Sean Kilroy Fitness in Drogheda, where we’re both from.”

Kelly made 531 appearances for Leeds United FC between 1992 and 2007, the highest of the modern era and 8th on the club’s all-time appearance list. The 44-year-old right-back earned 52 senior caps for the Republic of Ireland and represented the nation at the World Cup in 1994 and 2002.

Clarke revealed how Kelly related to the young contender as a fellow athlete familiar with his position and the weight that can be lifted with the aid of sponsorship. The football star, who owns the GK Gym also in Drogheda, will cover the 23-year-old athlete’s training, gym membership and nutrition expenses.

“[Gary] was just finished with his training session and I was just finishing mine. He said, ‘If you’re ever looking for sponsorship let me know, I can help you out, keep up the good work’. Later that day I text him to thank him for the offer and told him of the upcoming World Championships and if we could sort something out. He said he will never forget how he felt years ago when he was looking for sponsors, he used to hate asking people for sponsorship and he knows how I feel and that’s why he wanted to help out.”

Competing in the men’s lightweight division, the amateur veteran first represented Ireland at the 2016 IMMAF World Championships in Las Vegas, followed by the 2017 European Open and the 2017 World Championships last November where the extent of his potential was showcased.

“I felt my best at last years World’s,” he said. “It gave me confidence to know I can beat anyone and I believe I can become World Champion this year in Bahrain.”

For the 2017 World Championships Clarke joined the Republic of Ireland national team as a late replacement, yet showcased his best form to date, upsetting Swedish tournament favourite Tobias Harila to avenge a previous loss and advance to the quarter-finals where his exit came via a narrow split-decision loss to eventual silver medalist, Vitaly Andrukovich of Belarus.

“I always come back a better version of myself,” Clarke added. Already proven as a significant threat to all international comers, the young Irishman is feeling motivated on the road back the World Championships where he plans to compete for the prestigious gold medal.

The Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) regularly brings together one of the World’s largest and most successful national teams to compete on the IMMAF platform. Team Ireland will be in action at the historic IMMAF-WMMAA Unified World Championships, taking place from 11-18 November, also featuring Junior World Championships for the first time in Manama, Bahrain.

Pictured: Team Ireland at the 2018 IMMAF Euros in Bucharest, Romania.
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