Kerrith Brown, IMMAF
International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) president Kerrith Brown. IMMAF


  • The IMMAF hopes to keep growing MMA at its earliest stages of competition
  • Kerrith Brown speaks at length about the tournament's importance to the federation's goals
  • The IMMAF's next event will take place in Italy

Mixed martial arts (MMA) has steadily grown in popularity over the years, and public perception of the sport has changed greatly since its inception.

However, the sport currently faces a massive problem in the amateur ranks because there is a lack of growth in that sector in order to fully create an ecosystem similar to other professional sports.

This is the hole that the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) and its president, Kerrith Brown, hope to fill in the coming years.

Recently, the IMMAF held the 2022 Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates from August 17 to 20 with a turnout of about 500 amateur athletes from over 42 different nations across ages 12 to 17.

The International Business Times was able to have an exclusive interview with Brown recently, and the 1984 Olympic bronze medalist in judo was more than happy to elaborate on the importance of the youth for the continued development of MMA.

"It's a massive milestone for the history of the sport and its development... The youth is the most important development of any international sport. Having kids as young as 12 to under-18 is a key part of development that changes the perception of the sport," Brown said.

"What I mean by that is the recognition and the changing of perception around the sport ultimately comes from the youth. [The number of participants] shows the growth of the sport and shows the development of the other national federations that are supporting the development [of MMA]."

Brown noted that the IMMAF's main thrust is to create the foundations of MMA at a grassroots level and fully believes that it could be an Olympic sport.

While many would be concerned about their wards taking part in what they deem a dangerous sport, the organization's rule set has adopted the Unified Rules that fans of the sport are familiar with, but with some changes such as:

- Knee strikes of any kind are illegal

- No wristlocks

- No suplexes, elevated shoulder throws or slams

- No linear kicks to the knee

- Up-kicks are illegal

- Foot stomps are illegal

These are but some of the modifications the federation made, including shin-guards and gloves with protective padding, in order to ensure the safety of the participants while maintaining a high level of competition.

While MMA is a popular combat sport, there are those who would rather see their children take up a different discipline like boxing and Muay Thai.

For Brown, the IMMAF is determined to change this perception while also differentiating MMA from the aforementioned sports.

"Instilling integrity, fair play, and everything that comes within the traditional martial arts, MMA has that as well... It's not just about fighting," he stated.

"Back in the day everybody could see that it is a dangerous sport, but if you look at it now, it is safer than boxing since the primary target there is the head. In MMA, it's dispersed between head, body and the extremities."

With the success of the 2022 Youth World Championships, Brown fully believes that the organization will play a major role in making MMA just as popular among the youth as the more storied combat sports.

"We have to ensure that when we hand the baton over to the next generation, that we've done all that we can do to make sure that the sport is of a gold standard in the criteria that we have been [focusing on]," Brown declared.

Brown and the IMMAF's goals of developing the sport head next to Italy for the 2022 IMMAF European Championships from September 27 to October 1.

2022 IMMAF Youth world Championships
Youth mixed martial arts (MMA) took centerstage at the 2022 IMMAF Youth World Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. IMMAF