It has been a busy year for MMA in South Africa as 2014 saw the sport grow in leaps and bounds across the country. The South African Federation, MMASA, achieved important goals over the year, growing its base of registered clubs and hosting many amateur MMA events; and through this widening its base of athletes and MMA fans around the nation. All this was made possible only through the combined effort of many people, from coaches to promoters, and such hard work is setting South Africa’s bar at a respectable high.
After its affiliation to the IMMAF, South Africa had the opportunity to put to test their national work and achievement by competing at the first World Championships of amateur MMA. In Las Vegas, they proved that sweat and dedication pay off: Of four fighters, two brought home world titles and the team achieved the two fastest knockouts of the competition.
For MMASA, 2015 has already begun. The Federation plans to increase its number of competitions around the country and is eager to join up more clubs and athletes in order to further strengthen the position of the sport in South Africa. With all the current activity in South African Mixed Martial Arts, it would be wise to keep an eye on this force in the rising.
IMMAF caught up with MMASA board member, Raymond Phillips:
What do you feel have been the main achievements for the South African Federation?
It took us a number of years for South Africa MMA to become a part of IMMAF and the road was difficult. I do consider our acceptance into IMMAF as a massive milestone and our greatest achievement. All this would not have been possible if it wasn’t for our new board and for the help and guidance of Erika Mattsson. She was a real pillar of strength. I really loved her no-nonsense attitude and her hard work paid off. Bravo to Erika! We are now the official governing MMA body in South Africa with the backing of MASA (Martial Arts South Africa) and SASCOC (South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee)
How big is the MMA scene right now in South Africa?
There have been more than 30 amateur MMA events held over all South Africa this year. We have over 150 registered clubs now. MMA in South Africa has undergone a tremendous growth spurt this year and we expect it to be even bigger next year. All this would not have been possible without the amateur clubs bringing new athletes to rings all over South Africa for us to view. We thank them for this and all the hard work. There are still some teething problems but with a great team behind us I am confident that we will be able to handle it.
How was the experience of competing at the first World Championships of amateur MMA?
We were very privileged to take a small team of four fighters headed by myself as Coach and Manager to Las Vegas. Above all expectations, we brought back two World Champions, Amanda Lino and Wessel Mosterd! This placed us on the international ranking system as a force to be reckoned with. The experience was awesome and we were treated with respect and friendliness. When issues arose, the IMMAF organizers were tremendous and even when I thought they wanted to kick some of our behinds they kept it together and were very professional. I have attended many other World Championships in Kickboxing and I must say this Championships was one of my favorites.
What were the hardest challenges and obstacles South African MMA Federation has had to face so far?
This might seem familiar or funny, but I would say it was working to fix the problems left behind by the previous board. Then it was to get the chiefs and lords that had caused most of the problems to stand down; and to convince the clubs and instructors to follow our new Federation. That was a mission and a half, but it’s coming together nicely.
Looking forward to 2015, what comes next for you? What are the plans for the near future?
We are very excited and are already planning our Provincial, National and hopefully an All Africa MMA Championships. We would also like to send an even bigger and stronger South African MMA team to the next IMMAF World Championships.
Interview by Caio Lemos
Pictured: Men’s Super Heavyweight Gold medallist, – Wessel Mosterd