IMMAA looking to provide clear direction for Irish MMA in the future


In an interview for last weekend, Severe MMA’s own Peter Carroll spoke to Team Ryano head coach and vice-president of the newly-formed IMMAA, Andy Ryan. Ryan discussed the efforts of the IMMAA, IMMAF and Sport Ireland in pushing for the regulation of mixed martial arts in Ireland in the wake of the tragic passing of Joao Carvalho at TEF 1 last month. After Carvalho’s untimely death, Ryan indicated that events were due to be cancelled, but the lack of regulation meant no final decision could be made:

“At the same time, we were in touch international mixed martial arts federation, IMMAF, and they told us that we should hold off on any shows. They said they would look to sit down with the government to work towards regulating the sport.”

“We weren’t stopping the events from taking place, but we could not allow any fighters or clubs associated with the IAPA to compete at the events with so much going on. We have to fall in line with our governing body, IMMAF.”

Ryan expects that the regulations will be set in stone within the next three to five years, with the IMMAA taking on the role of governing body. For the moment, however, Ryan mentioned that they are powerless to stop any shows going ahead and the only option is to opt out of supporting them:

“If someone wants to put on a show tomorrow all we can do is pull our support from it. In three to five years time IMMAA will get that stamp from Sport Ireland (to regulate the sport) and only then will we be able to stop an event from taking place.”

Ryan noted that one positive to take from the cancellation of shows is that European promotion, BAMMA, have improved their medical procedures to match those of the UFC going forward:

“BAMMA have decided to update their medical procedures following the death of Joao Carvalho. They will have the same level of medical clearance that UFC have from now on. They will scan all of their fighters and that will carry across to their shows in England as well.”

Ryan also stated that the current lack of regulation in Ireland means fights can still take place without fighters receiving adequate medical clearance, but the IMMAA are being advised that a structure needs to be put in place to ensure fighters can compete safely:

“At the moment, people can do what they want. There are no laws put in place, but IMMAA will not support any of those events. Again, the officials and fighters associated with us would not be able to have anything to do with those shows.”

“We are being advised by Professor Dan Healy (neurologist), Safe MMA, IMMAF and the government. They want to see proper, reputable shows with a structure. That structure will make sure that fighters go through a series of checks before they compete. The safety of the fighters is our main concern and it always has been.”

Ryan went on to speak of a major landmark that came last week for the IMMAA, where new rules were introduced to protect the health and safety of amateur fighters. These included the wearing of shin pads and rash vests, as well as competitors having to abide by a “same day weigh in” process. Ryan understood that not everyone was happy with the new rules, but felt it was important that a demarcation was made between amateur and professional fighters:

“I understand the concern over the rule changes. In the Republic of Ireland, we are dealing with the government now. They want to see a clear distinction between the professional sport, the likes of UFC, and the amateur sport. IMMAF have that clear distinction with the shin guards and the rash guards for their own competitions.”

As well as bolstering the amateur calendar with the rollout of global Grand Prix events, Ryan emphasized that the IMMAF are aiming to make mixed martial arts an Olympic sport. While there are a lot of professional MMA fighters in Ireland, he clarified that not all of them are in a position to train as such:

“That’s IMMAF’s goal, they want MMA to be an Olympic sport. There is no point in going pro if you cannot win on the amateur scene…”

“A lot of pros in Ireland work every day of the week and they train in the evenings and then they fight in these pro bouts. They’re fighting pro fights but they are not professional athletes. They’re not training for six or seven hours a day and getting paid big fees.”

Despite the abundance of fighting talent in Ireland, Ryan concedes that MMA has yet to properly develop in the country at grassroots level. From Garda vetting to building a coaching syllabus, the IMMAA hope to address these grassroots deficiencies and provide a clear direction for the sport over the next five years:

“We need Garda vetting for all of the coaches. We need the coaches to get certificates to prove that they are efficient in the different areas of the sport. We have none of that in place so we have to jump back and create that structure.”

“In five years time we want to have every club signed up to IMMAA and we want to all coaches to have qualifications. We hope that everyone will be able to go under the same insurance policy. Coaches and fighters should have a syllabus to work off further down the line too.”

“There’s no direction in this sport. We’re all using what we’ve picked up from training the different martial arts disciplines over the years to teach. We need that direction moving forward.” 


Salon-quality hair and a right foot that could open a tin of peas. Twitter: @ahayde7

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