The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation’s historic first Youth MMA World Championships commenced on August 3, 2019 at the PalaPellicone in Rome, Italy. A total of 253 U18s competitors aged 12 – 17 have arrived to compete.
1st Youth MMA World Championships participants
The two-day tournament plays host to 25 teams from 25 countries namely Albania, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Bulgaria, Canada, Cyprus, Czech Republic, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Lebanon, Mexico, New Zealand, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, South Africa, Ukraine, the United States and Wales. Representing Wales, Ellis Clement, 16, shared, “I’m really excited.”
“I can’t wait to just get in there and have fun,” Clement continued. “I love MMA because I love meeting new people and learning new things. MMA’s changed my life because I used to be introverted and it’s made me socialize a lot more and boosted my confidence. I want to do it as job now because I love the adrenalin rush and I’m just addicted to the sport.”
Like Clement, Kiya O’Sullivan, 16, of Ireland shared what MMA meant to her. She said, “I love MMA because I’ve been doing it since I was a kid.”
“I pretty much started boxing pads at my Dad’s gym from about the age of two and then trained in judo and jiu jitsu,” O’Sullivan continued. “I don’t really enjoy school so much and I prefer doing more physical things. It’s good for keeping fit and knowing how protect yourself as well. I want to do this as a career.”
The evolution of MMA and IMMAF’s mission
The controversial sport of MMA has evolved as a reformation in martial arts over the last 25 years, starting out as a test of skill among elite professionals. Part of the IMMAF’s mission has been to develop safe pathways from a grassroots level upwards, to cater for the phenomenal participant demand for education in the skills of sport, including from recreational participants, minors and their parents.
According to IMMAF president Kerrith Brown, the first Youth MMA World Championships puts a stake in the ground for MMA, which was born in inverse to other sports starting at the professional level. He explained, “Its huge popularity has seen children and young people joining MMA gyms globally but there has never been any structure or governance before.”
“When we announced the Youth World Championships, we didn’t anticipate how many teams and youths would register, and have been surprised by the demand, which really indicates the depth of the sport at U18s level and these competitors are tomorrow’s elite stars,” Brown continued. “If MMA makes it into the 2028 Games, this is the generation of kids that we would see in the Olympics. This Championships presents a vision of the future.”
1st Youth MMA World Championships rules
IMMAF has set a precedent among striking combat sports with its Youth MMA rule sets which bar head-strikes for under 18s. The rules see a modification of the world recognized Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts with respect to the physiological development of competitors across the following three age categories, as advised by IMMAF’s expert medical, coaching and regulatory committees:
- IMMAF Youth A 16-17s (U18)
- IMMAF Youth B 14-15s (U16)
- IMMAF Youth C 12-13s (U14)
Check the summary of tournament format, rules and categories on IMMAF. Also, view the full Mixed Martial Arts Unified Rules for Youth Competition here. Watch regulatory affairs director Marc Goddard as he walks through the IMMAF – WMMAA Youth MMA rulesets for U18s competition on IMMAF TV.