CAPE TOWN – Mixed Martial Arts South Africa (MMA-SA) says it hopes to build positive rapport following some bad reviews from members of the MMA community.
It is no secret that there are contrasting feelings toward MMA-SA. Athletes, coaches and fans have either expressed their gratitude or vented their concern over the lack of transparency regarding issues such as finances or input from the organisation.
A well-known figure in the MMA community – who chose to remain anonymous in an interview with Independent Media – stated his ‘total distrust' for MMA-SA, questioning its input.
“They're not good for the sport or the country, what have they actually done for MMA in SA?
“They have never been transparent, when have they ever funded athletes, there is never financial help.
“I know so many people who have done so much more for the sport,” said the individual.
“We don't understand why each fighter needs to pay fees, especially during the (Covid-19) pandemic, some just don't have money, some are living in poverty, some gyms train their athletes for free and we have to cover the costing, we don't see that money. We feel that there are hierarchy decisions made without the inclusion of gym owners and role players,” added another individual.
The funds in question are the annual affiliation fees the organisation requests from athletes, promoters and gyms.
The latest fee structure for 2021 reads as follows (members have until February 28 to renew or register): Gyms (R850)
Per Athlete (R100) – amateur and professional
There are no costs for coach-affiliation.
As per MMA-SA, registered amateur athletes have the opportunity to participate in the National South African MMA Championship which could open doors to the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation events. Registered officials also get the opportunity – qualification dependent – to work at national and international events.
Members who are unable to pay fees are encouraged to contact MMA-SA to explain their situation, which will be looked at.
“The fees go to the annual SA and World MMA Championships,” says chief executive Jason Brown, who confirmed that the organisation hosted three National Championships in the last four years, excluding 2020 due to Covid-19.
The organisation also last sent a team of 17 individuals, including four officials, to the World Championships in Bahrain in 2019 – the trips were made possible by external sponsors. That year a team was sent to the World Youth Championships in Italy.
Prior to that, Brown confirmed that MMA-SA sent athletes to four other IMMAF World Championships.
He confirmed that costs such as medical, travel insurance and kit costs were covered by the organisation, while the remaining costs were covered by athletes and sponsors.
“It's imperative to understand that the federation is a non-profitable organisation, and because it's not an Olympic sport yet, it receives no financial backing from the government.”
As per MMA-SA, R350 of each club's annual fee goes to MASA (Martial Arts South Africa) while an annual payment of “$1000” (R15 070) goes to “our international mother body, IMMAF to be affiliated internationally, leaving MMA-SA with about R500 left per club,” adds Brown.
“It is not a requirement that all gyms offering MMA be a member of MMA-SA, however, every competing athlete must belong to an affiliated gym/club to compete at MMA-SA sanctioned events,” says Brown, who confirmed there were 30 gyms registered at the beginning of January 2020.
On the other side of the spectrum, some people believe that the organisation is on the right track now.
“MMA-SA have been very fair in their rulings. We have been working very closely with them and we feel that MMA-SA is one of the best structured organisations in the country and we expect big things,” said a Cape Townbased gym owner, while another sensei added that he “can see why the organisation needs the required funds”.
Brown agreed that the desired rapport is yet to be achieved and added they will be more transparent in all aspects.
“This is something that we will change immediately.
“We have set up sub-committees and commissions across the country who will all have a say going forward.
“Every board meeting will include the latest financials so that all are kept abreast of things,” says Brown.
According to the organisation's latest organogram, various changes took place recently, starting at the presidency, with Raymond Phillips being the incumbent after Bertus Coetzee resigned. MMA-SA have also brought on established names within the sport.
Former and current fighters, Dr Danella Eliasov (Medical Commision), Garreth McClellan, Simon Harle (Professional Regulatory Commission) as well as Dr Bunmi Ojewole (Women's Commission) have joined the ranks.
“We need athletes who have actually been in the sport to be on our commissions and committees.
“They can help us gain the trust of the community and make change within the sport.”
It is understood that non-professional contact sport can resume.
“Amateur athletes can start preparing for provincial trials which would be next month (March) with the idea of SA Champs the month after (April) – Covid-19 restrictions dependent. We plead to all gyms to continue complying with the Covid-19 protocols.”