A new non-profit organization focused on bringing "international structure, development and support" to mixed martial arts on Thursday announced its formation.
The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, according to a release from the IMMAF sent to HeavyMMA, formed on Feb. 29 as a registered non-profit organization in Sweden. The federation launched a new website, as well, at immaf.org. The announcement comes on the heels of the Ultimate Fighting Championship's first card in Sweden, which takes place Saturday in Stockholm.
And on Thursday, the UFC announced it has thrown its support behind the IMMAF. UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said the organization is needed – and might well play a part in the eventual addition of mixed martial arts as an Olympic sport.
"In order to maintain the successful growth of our sport, it is important to invest in resources that will develop and cultivate it at an amateur level," Fertitta said in a statement from the UFC. "Having an umbrella organization that will oversee and help build the sport on a global level will not only provide advanced and ever-improving safety standards, but will also create a unified global model to help introduce the sport to new markets. It is our hope that it will also take us one step closer to witnessing the inclusion of the sport of MMA on the Olympic program."
The IMMAF said it will be a "stable, professional and democratic community for all national federations and offer support to countries committed to forming new federations where none currently exist." The IMMAF's hope is to see its membership grow to 25 countries by the end of the year.
Former fighter and current trainer and businessman August Wallen will serve as the first president of the IMMA. Wallen previously was president of the Swedish Mixed Martial Arts Federation and played a role in getting the sport sanctioned in Sweden.
"This is a very proud day for us," Wallen said in a statement. "The IMMAF is committed to be at the forefront of developing MMA as an international sport, from the grassroots level to the elite level, supporting the development of regulations and best practices on health, safety, youth involvement and more. Our vision is for MMA to be recognized as a sport through the full membership of IMMAF in SportAccord and for it to ultimately become an Olympic sport. I know many of us dedicated to MMA dream of the day that the sport has worldwide recognition and this is a first step towards making that happen."
According to the IMMAF release, the organization will be funded on donations and will operate without fees for member federations for now.
UFC vice presdient for regulatory affairs Marc Ratner also threw his support behind the IMMAF.
"The creation of this organization is long overdue," Ratner said. "MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world and we support the Federation's focus on providing a globally unified set of rules and safety measures to help keep all fighters safe. While there are many obstacles ahead in the formation of this international organization, we are confident of the outcomes and advancements this group will make for the future of our sport."
Sweden is the 10th country outside the United States that the UFC has hosted an event in, joining the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Brazil, Australia, Germany, Ireland, Puerto Rico and the United Arab Emirates. The promotion has regional offices in London, Toronto and Beijing; this year launched the first international edition of "The Ultimate Fighter" in Brazil; and recently announced a broadcast deal in India, a country of more than 1.2 billion people.