How did IMMAF get to sign with Adidas ?
There have been a lot of relationships between the Adidas / Double D company and Bertrand Amoussou, who is our president of the French Mixed Martial Arts Federation.
Adidas actually sponsored the French National team in going to our World championships last year in Las Vegas. We then had a conversation with the people of Double D to see how the company could become a global partner of the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF).
I think that one of the things they see as a great opportunity is the growth of the sport, which is without any doubt, the fastest growing sport in the world. What we bring them is a governing body.
Adidas has jumped on board rather than waiting. We signed a partnership for a 3 years period. We are looking forward to build on it. It’s not about doing something just today. This is a partnership that would run for a long period of time. I can predict this will be a very successful partnership.
“500 millions around the world”
How many members are registered in IMMAF ?
We have now got 60 countries around the world full members of IMMAF and we’ve got 25 countries what we call “observational members”. They are basically sitting on a sideline waiting for us to finish the paper work to make them full members. So, hopefully, by the end of the year, we will have 85 to nearly a hundred countries around the world full members of the IMMAF Federation.
I read articles and figures about how many people are practising martial arts around the world. We reckon about 500 millions around the world, practicing mixed martial arts in some shapes or forms.
Those numbers, I think, come from the fact that no matter what country you go to, anywhere in the world, there is some forms of martial arts practise. It could be Judo in Japan, Grappling or Wrestling in the US, Jiu Jitsu down in Brazil… Every country has some forms of martial art. The beauty of what makes martial art what it is, is to allow all those forms of combat sports to come together.
What are IMMAF priorities in its work ?
As an organization, one of the things that we are trying to do now is to recognize and support all of those federations in countries, formal or informal, looking for help and approval from governments. Every athlete who is registered to our associations will be registered to the IMMAF one.
What we are trying to do is then have a focus on developing the sport from a recreational point of view all the way to the Elite level, from somebody who just goes to the gym one or twice a week to people who want to compete at an amateur level and the Elite one (the professionals who try to get in the UFC).
“We are only 4 years old”
For IMMAF, is it a great step to sign with such a famous trademark ?
Yes, I think this is an enormous statement for the 2 brands, for Adidas and IMMAF. We are only 4 years old. We are a very young organization. For us, this is a huge kudos, as a brand, to have Adidas as a partner. And I think for Adidas, it’s also a great step. It was founded a long time ago. They have seen many opportunities across the world of sports where they have been able to enter different sports at different periods of time.
But MMA is one of the newest sports in the world. The sport itself was probably founded around 12 to 15 years ago. The Apple Iphone is actually older than the sport is.
Adidas can enter into a new sport, target a new generation of consumers, anywhere between 18 and 24 years of age, around the world, very male dominated at this moment of time but women’s participation grows. So, that’s really a great opportunity and kudos for both parties.
What do you expect from Adidas ?
You have to break the Adidas offering into two what I call “specific product categories”. The first one is a huge area where there is opportunity to bring new innovation to the equipment category : new technologies, new materials, new look, to bring freshness to a very fast and growing sport.
One other thing that we will be launching this year at our world championships (July 6th to 11th in Las Vegas, US) will be the fact that all athletes competing at the amateur level will compete with a top on. So they will wear rashguards.
If you look at the professional level of the sport, they are bare-chested. For Adidas, this creates a new market and a totally new opportunity, not just in the the tops but in the shorts that they provide.
“To bring innovation, new technology, new look…”
What about the 2nd category ?
The 2nd category within this offering on our working together with Adidas is around equipment, being the gloves, the shinguards, the headguards that are provided. We want to see and we want to put in place, similar to what we are working on the governmental side, is to have a common set-up rules and regulations around equipment all around the world.
All of that will help with the safety and the running of competitions around the world. It would develop the sport both for the recreational and for the elite athletes.
We are going to work really closely with the Adidas group on how do we bring that new innovation, new technology and new look to the sport and to this young sport.
You were talking about the World championship. What is the competitions’ schedule for 2016 ?
The Worlds takes place in Las Vegas from July 6th as part of the international UFC Fight Week. It’s a week of tournament. We will have 5 days of competition. We will have more athletes attending these world championships than ever before. We double the number of athletes that we were attending and we are close to 40 countries participating in the championship.
Then, we will go to South Africa for the African tournament, which will be our 1st continental of the year. Then, we will head to Prague, for the European championship (22nd to 26th of November). So we have 3 events happening before the end of the year.
Moreover, athletes have to qualify for those tournaments so they participate in a national championship to get to qualify, to be able to attend those championships.
“we don’t want to drive the sport underground”
What would you like to say to the French government in order to change its point of view ?
(He laughs). The big thing for me is to make sure that everybody works together. If you view the sport of Mixed Martial Art from me, the greatest thing about this sport, is showing how two people can be in combat together whilst the clock is ticking. But, at the end of the competition, they shake hands, they have great respect for one another and they show what a partnership can be within sport.
I think for us and for our French federation led by Bertrand (Amoussou), one of the greatest things that we can do is trying to work with governmental agencies, to recognize everybody’s point of view and work together formally and informally to try to find a solution.
What are your arguments ?
The only thing that we are trying to do is focus on developing the sport. MMA is not going to go away. So we want to work with authorities to make sure that we can have a common set-up rules and a common safety regulation. We make sure that we are doing everything will fit within the legislation of any countries we are cooperating with.
What we don’t want is to drive the sport underground, by not allowing it, by not giving it the approval that would be need by the authorities. So, like anything, if we all sit around the table, we can make sure that we work these things out. And we are very, very open to conversations. We just want to try and find a solution that fits the needs of both parties.
Do you think it will happen quite soon ?
If we don’t meet up or if people are influenced, by outside influences, well, then, there will always be the problem of trying to regulate the sport. We want to make sure that the sport is regulated. We’ve got some great fighters from France, who were fighting at a professional level all around the world and fighting at the top of the professional level, in the UFC.
We’ve got a team of fantastic amateur athletes who will be attending and representing the country of France at our championships in Las Vegas. We need the support of the French government and official agencies, to recognize that these people are representing your country and are athletes who are participating at the top level of sport. It’s unfair to not recognize those guys.
By Ludovic Mauchien