By IMMAF.org lead writer/photographer: Jorden Curran
British MMA veteran Mike Grundy made his long awaited and highly anticipated UFC debut on March 16 in the promotion’s featherweight division. The 32-year-old Team Kaobon product from Wigan secured his 12th professional victory with a TKO stoppage over fellow British standout, Nad Narimani, on the card of UFC Fight Night: Till vs. Masvidal at the O2 Arena in London.
While MMA remains unrecognized and widely unregulated in the UK; Grundy is no stranger to regulated sport and the necessity for focused sport development from the grass roots. The grappling specialist represented England in freestyle wrestling at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, earning a bronze medal in the 74kg division with a long evolved skill-set that no doubt lent to his MMA career with 8 out of 12 wins coming via submission.
Having both witnessed and been a part of mainstream MMA’s biggest UK night in years, Grundy is confident that far more is yet to come, and through established regulation and youth development, the world’s “fastest growing sport” could yet see another explosion.
“I think it can go a long way,” Grundy stated following his debut UFC appearance. “I’ve got kids at my club who are doing MMA, wrestling, jiu jitsu, everything, and they’re coming through now from like 10-years-old. They are a young age, it’s going to develop very quick I think. Some of these young ones coming through are going to be unreal.”
In February of 2019, global governing body IMMAF-WMMAA released youth competition rules for amateur MMA athletes under the age of 18. The youngest age bracket, Youth C, is set to accommodate athletes aged 12-13 (U14) with rules across all U18 divisions prohibiting certain strikes including head shots and a number of submission techniques based on age level.
“The rules set for younger ones doing it has got to be monitored,” Grundy added. “It’s got to be body shots and stuff. I think a governing body in the sport would be nice to have.”
The UK MMA Federation (UKMMAF) serves as the UK’s national affiliate to IMMAF-WMMAA, in addition to Northern Ireland’s Ulster Amateur MMA Association, and the recently confirmed Welsh MMA Federation, MMA Cymru. UK athletes have represented national teams on the international IMMAF championships platform since 2014, with junior divisions established in 2018 and the debut of youth championships set for later this year.
The inaugural 2019 Youth MMA World Championships are scheduled for August 3-4 in Rome, Italy. In addition, the 2019 Junior World Championships for athletes age 18-20 are once again set to take place in conjunction with the IMMAF-WMMAA Senior World Championships (18+), when the sport’s premier competition for amateurs returns to Manama, Bahrain, in November.