Its Time to Press the Reset Button on Amateur MMA in South Africa?

Written by on October 23, 2019

Its no secret that MMA in SA is in turmoil and has been for quite some time. From the days when they felt they needed to justify their existence at the emergence of the now failed Last Fighter Standing initiative, to the multitude of promises and commitments made at the inaugural IMMAF All Africa Open, it seems a classic case of “Same Same, Maybe Different”! The only problem is that continually doing the same thing can never realise anything different!

Consider for a moment your thoughts and feelings on our National Team’s disastrous participation at the recent Cricket World Cup. Your joy and elation following the performances of our National Ladies Teams at the respective Football and Netball World Cups. Now add your thoughts on Bafana Bafana and their floundering over the last 20 years and then for added effect, the weekly discussions regarding the Springboks as they look to secure a spot in the Rugby World Cup Final.

A critical component of all of those events and teams has ALWAYS been the team selection choice because not only do they represent each other in their personal capacityies but they represent the Nation. Let’s now move to the fastest growing sport on the planet – MMA – and remember the good old days when the South African National MMA Team were ranked second on the IMMAF-WMMAA World rankings – well, we are now ranked a lowly 7thand even that position is under threat if one properly scrutinises the build-up to the upcoming World Championships to be held in Bahrain later this year!

Back in 2016, promises were made to establish sustainable provincial structures beneath the National Board with the aim of consolidating SA’s 2ndplace ranking and broadening this growing the sport. With the exception of KZN which is “already running smoothly”, almost 3 years have transpired and these promises remain largely unfulfilled with a new MMASA structure now being implemented – the establishment of a Provincial Development Officer – to hopefully deliver on their mandate. Following on the recent MMASA AGM, further commitments were made to set-up Provincial Training Camps as well as the commitment to host at least four (4) development tournaments in each province annually although later in the AGM minutes it makes reference of only three (3) development tournaments.

Some of the reasons given for the establishment of these development tournaments are;

  • To “…stop athletes from entering a promotion without the necessary fighter experience”.
  • The “…need to produce better quality fighters that are mentally prepared for the ring…”
  • To ensure “…they are competent and have the necessary guidance and knowledge [to] be a success”. 

With this as a guideline, how then does MMASA condone, let alone sanction, the fact that of the current seven (7) athletes registered to represent our country in Bahrain at the IMMAF World Championships later this year, three (3) of them are yet to register a win in an amateur fight with records of 0-1/0-1/0-2 respectively and one (1) of the athletes has a record of only 1-1! Simply put, more than half the currently registered SA National Team have no place being there as they do not even qualify to have completed the “soon-to-be-introduced” Amateur developmental tournaments – WTF!!!

MMASA’s inability to attract and secure any form of national sponsorship has meant all our registered athletes, along with the National Coaches, are left looking for personal sponsorships to afford them the opportunity to compete on the World Stage, a scenario not unfamiliar to most Olympic hopefuls due to the disgraceful antics of another of SA’s sports governing bodies.

And yet this is not the only reason why many of the selected national team will not be attending the World Champs in Bahrain because, with the exception of the KZN Region, MMASA has failed to register any of the Gauteng athletes – the largest and most active Amateur region in the country – on MyNextMatch and virtually all the spots – with the exception of the flyweight (5), bantamweight (2), middleweight (1) and light heavyweight (4) – are full!

Where are our experienced athletes, those that have previously represented the country in International tournaments and where are the top Amateurs that regularly feature on the local Promotion Fight Cards? Only one (1) of the currently registered athletes has won an Amateur MMA title!

Off the back of this, as well as the “Now-I-am-Coaching” and “Now-I-am-not Coaching” situation with the National Team Coach, it comes as no surprise to hear the rumours circulating about an athlete petition against the MMASA Board ahead of the IMMAF World Championships. 

One of the fundamental mandates of any sports governing body is to assist and protect their athletes. From the above its clear that MMASA has done very little to deliver on its National mandate to assist – not the best – but a selected few athletes; as for protecting them, lets unpack that a little more;

  • Its clear that 2020 marks the dawn of the “Athlete Protection Programme” for Amateur MMA! 
  • Come to think of it, maybe this is part of a grander plan. Looking back at four (4) of the last Amateur events held in Gauteng; every single event had instances of shambolic mismatches where athletes with far superior records were mismatched against athletes that were either making their debuts or had records of 1-0. In fact at one of these events, the Promotion’s current Champion – with a record of 7-1 – fought an athlete with a record of only 1-1. In all these instances the fight cards were approved by MMASA, so forgetting the obvious record padding, not to mention the appalling match-making, lets concentrate on the utter ineptitude of allowing such fights to even occur because MMA, like Boxing, Kickboxing and many other Combat Sports are not sports that you “PLAY”, they can be brutal! 
  • The icing on the cake of this “looking after the fighters” facade is that MMASA are so confident that all is in perfect working order that there was no Official Representative at the recent RFN event!

With no financials in circulation for a third straight year, with virtually the same MMASA Board at the helm for the next two (2) years and rumours that the 2020 All Africa Event might be moving northwards, South Africa’s position in the IMMAF Top 10 is in grave danger and without immediate intervention from either MASA or IMMAF, their respective grandiose ambitions of building a truly globally recognised and respected member body will amount to very little unless they hold their members fully accountable to their respective Statutes.

PHOTO: Edward Lewellen


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