by Dane McGuire


After years of struggle and legal back-and-forth, the UFC partnered International Mixed Martial Arts Federation is in the afterglow of a massive victory.


The amatuer MMA governing body announced December 23 it had been:


“…awarded WADA Code signatory status by the World Anti-Doping Agency, becoming the first organization to do so under the revised Policy for Acceptance of New Signatories that came into effect at the beginning of 2021.


IMMAF’s application was reviewed under the revised policy, which was approved by WADA’s Executive Committee in September 2020 and came into force at the same time as the revised Code on 1 January 2021.”


In short, WADA oversees anti-doping for the Olympics and accomplishing what IMMAF has done is a major required step for Olympic recognition of a sport.


IMMAF President Kerrith Brown said:


“As the first international sports governing body to complete WADA’s new application process, we have set a new benchmark not just for MMA, but for sport. Today, IMMAF can be proud that its gold standard in clean MMA has been formally recognised, guaranteeing transparency, fairness and safety to our athletes and empowering us to implement further improvements in governance. This sees IMMAF become the only international federation for MMA with WADA signatory status, following six years adherence to WADA compliant anti-doping regulation. Today’s result is not only a significant achievement for IMMAF but also for our national federations which have contributed to this journey, and it will surely strengthen their bids for national sport recognition.”


IMMAF CEO Densign White said:


“It’s been a long journey these past years to achieve the standard required for signatory status. This recognition sets a benchmark for our sport and also marks a historical step change in WADA’s recognition process, with IMMAF being the first international federation to be accepted under the new WADA Code as revised in January. The new code sets new higher standards in protecting athletes and creating the level playing field we all want. This will also be fantastic news for all our national federations as it validates their credibility as members of an international federation that has sport integrity at its heart.”


Brown said in a January 14 article written for the IMMAF website that now IMMAF national federations have clout in the processes within their governmental structure, which helps to be recognized as a sport nationally.

Governing bodies for sports must also be part of the Global Association of Sports Federations to eventually become an Olympic sport. GAISF’s website notes:


“GAISF Members are divided into four groups which represents the pyramid of Olympic sport: The Association of Summer Olympic International Federations (ASOIF) and the Association of International Olympic Winter Sports Federations (AIOWF), for those IFs that are on the Olympic summer and winter programmes respectively.


The Association of Recognised International Sports Federations (ARISF) include IFs that are recognised by the IOC but not on the Olympic Programme, and the Alliance of Independent recognised Members of Sport (AIMS) is for those sports within GAISF that are not yet in any of the three previous groupings.”




“What is interesting about this is that we are a non-Olympic sport and not even recognised as a sport by GAISF. Yet we have achieved this. Despite not being a recognised sport or governing body we’ve been accepted by WADA – which is one of the toughest applications you can make to be compliant as a clean sport.


What this does is undermine the political game that has been taking place in GAISF. The politics in GAISF is that we are being held back because of political divisions caused by certain members. They are holding back because they are afraid of how our sport will impact their international federation or sport or athletes. Which I think is unfair in terms of fair competition.


You could say we are probably ahead of the game by achieving this signatory. But at the same time, we are still being held back because of politics,” Brown wrote.


As noted separately by Olympic-based outlet which also features IMMAF content, GAISF is set to be dissolved in 2022.


While it seems unclear how dissolving GAISF could impact mixed martial arts, the outlet reported:


“It had been an open secret that plans were afoot to reshape the Olympic Movement and the organizations, like GAISF, which have been part of it for decades…


The dissolution of the umbrella body would further centralize the power on the IOC, which has privately signaled its opposition to the likes of GAISF holding their own major multi-sport events.”