The Estonian Mixed Martial Arts Federation (EMMAF) was accepted as member of the Estonian Olympic Committee on May 5, 2021. This granted official recognition to MMA as a sport in Estonia.
“I am pleased to say, that after more than 15 years of work we can say that we are here to stay, as the Estonian Mixed Martial Arts Federation yesterday became a fully-fledged member of the Estonian Olympic Committee,” EMMAF board member Ott Tõnissaar stated. “This means that MMA is now a government recognized sport in Estonia and the Estonian Mixed Martial Arts Federation is its sole, national representative. The final sprint started 55 days ago when the government decided on new COVID-19 restrictions which landed really hard on Estonian mixed martial arts athletes.”
Tõnissaar praised the MMA fighters who successfully represented Estonia in international competitions including Ksenija Grabova, who won at the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF)-World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA) Amateur World Championships 2019 on November 12, 2019. IMMAF president Kerrith Brown congratulated the EMMAF.
“Huge congratulations are in order for the passionate commitment and meticulous work of the Estonian MMA Federation and community in proving the validity of MMA and establishing the EMMAF as an effective, national governing body for the sport,” Brown said. “We welcome the wisdom and justice of this decision by the Estonian Olympic Committee that gives MMA’s athletes and participants the same recognition as those of other sports.”
According to Tõnissaar, only the national teams of government-recognized sports were allowed to continue training in Estonia. He explained, “Although MMA did not have government recognition, the Estonian MMA Federation had been functioning as a de facto, national sports federation for some time. Estonian MMA athletes had been representing our country, achieving four podium places at IMMAF European Championships and three top-10 ranking places at the IMMAF World Championships.”
As Tõnissaar noted, the IMMAF wins of Estonian MMA fighters opened up a dialogue that reached Estonian Olympic Committee president Urmas Sõõrumaa. The EMMAF board member said, “After some talks, Sõõrumaa’s position on this matter was straightforward.”
“The Estonian Olympic Committee should cover all sports in Estonia and we made it happen,” Tõnissaar continued. “COVID-19 training restrictions on national team MMA athletes have not yet been lifted by the Estonian Ministry of Culture but we are hoping for it to happen any day now.”
“I would like to thank the community of Estonian mixed martial arts, especially all the local sports clubs, coaches, enthusiasts, athletes, practitioners, sponsors and many other people who have been developing and growing our sport at a grassroots level,” Tõnissaar added. “I would also like to thank IMMAF for building the framework for our sport to grow and for organizing international level, championship events that are the soul of our sport.”