Immaf ‘disappointed’ with Gamma at African Games MMA Olympic push

Gamma’s involvement at the African Games came as a big surprise to many in the continent’s MMA community, but was still a big moment for many athletes who got to compete on an Olympic platform in Accra, Ghana. Photo: Gamma

Gamma’s involvement at the African Games came as a big surprise to many in the continent’s MMA community, but was still a big moment for many athletes who got to compete on an Olympic platform in Accra, Ghana. Photo: Gamma

Published Mar 22, 2024


The ongoing African Games may have been a big win for the mixed martial arts (MMA) community as the sport took one step closer to Olympic recognition, but the 13th edition of the quadrennial multi-sport event left a bitter taste in the mouths of some.

The Games got under way in Ghana on March 8 and are currently taking place in three cities – Accra, Kumasi and Cape Coast. They will end tomorrow.

After the announcement that the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (Gamma) would be the regulatory body for MMA at the Games, members of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (Immaf) were left “disappointed” and bewildered about how Gamma managed to secure the rights to showcase MMA at the African Games.

Immaf has been the only world governing body to have hosted continental amateur championships in Africa since 2016, with six events thus far – and is already in advanced discussions with the International Olympic Committee regarding Olympic recognition.

The African Games’ three-day MMA tournament ran from March 10 in Accra, also serving as an actual Gamma Championship competition, as 11 African teams (Benin, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo and Uganda) entered before the finals and medal ceremony brought the curtain down on a successful event on March 12.

Mixed martial arts was featured as one of seven demonstration sports among 30 disciplines, while eight of these will be holding qualifiers for this year’s Paris Olympics.

While Gamma’s 24 African national federations (all recognised by their national Olympic committees) are active in organising events across the continent, the African Games was the first international Gamma-organised MMA competition in Africa.

“It was so surprising that a rival governing body for MMA, known as Gamma, managed to secure the rights to showcase MMA at the African Games, even though, by any objective standards, Immaf is the only show in town in Africa,” said Goowtamsingh Ramtohul, president of the Africa MMA Confederation (Ammac).

The confederation was formed through Immaf to promote African mixed martial arts, and consists of members from 19 African Immaf federations.

These federations are all recognised by their respective governments or national Olympic committees.

“Ammac’s primary objective is to establish a unified platform for MMA in Africa, fostering collaboration, talent identification and technical advancement,” Ramtohul said.

“For this reason, we are disappointed that Ammac/Immaf was not allowed to showcase its hard work on the African continent by being given the honour of representing the growing sport of MMA at the African Games.”

When it comes to doping safety, Gamma has partnered with the International Testing Agency (ITA), with whom they are working for World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada) accreditation, while Immaf is already a Wada signatory, which is one of the reasons Immaf is in advanced discussions with the IOC regarding Olympic recognition.

Earlier this year, it was confirmed that Immaf also officially partnered with the ITA in a four-year contract starting on January 1, 2024.

When asked how Gamma was selected to form part of the African Games, their communications head Isobel Carnwath said: “It was negotiated through a process with the Association of African Sports Confederations (AASC-UCSA) based on Gamma being recognised by them as the international governing authority for amateur MMA (since 2022).

“As part of this, the AASC-UCSA president travelled to observe the Gamma World Championships.”

Considering the long quest for MMA to receive International Olympic Committee recognition and eventually become a mainstay sport at the Olympics in the future, inclusion in the African Games was a milestone for amateur MMA, and Gamma’s attachment to it certainly helps the regulatory body’s cause for the future.

As per Carnwath, the MMA leg formed part of a category in Olympic events designated for sports that are not yet formally recognised by the International Olympic Committee, but are recognised by the host country’s Olympic committees.

In this case, “Gamma is recognised by the Association of African Sports Confederations (AASC-UCSA) and the Ghanaian National Olympic Committee”, said Carnwath.

“To be considered for the international Olympic programme, a sport needs formal recognition as a discipline by the Olympic movement. Gamma is engaged in the recognition process through the relevant international bodies, a lengthy process that could take several years.

“Being recognised by the African Confederation and many national Olympic committees furthers MMA’s and Gamma’s claim for recognition. Inclusion in the African Games forms another significant step in the journey,” said Carnwath.

Independent Media contacted the Association of African Sports Confederations president, Major-General Ahmed Nasser Mohamed, this week, who was open to answering queries on the Games.

However, after enquiring about Gamma’s selection and his thoughts on the Games, Mohamed asked for patience, considering his tight schedule during the ongoing games.

Since its founding in 2019, Gamma’s membership has grown to include nationally recognised federations across five continents, while Immaf has more than 120 federations worldwide, all of which are recognised by their governments’ sporting structures and/or national Olympic committees.