UFC 219: Cyborg vs. Holm likely to be most tested MMA match-up in history

Pictured: Cris Cyborg (left) and Holly Holm (right) face off at the UFC 219 weigh ins.

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

Last year’s momentous UFC 219 headliner: Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm, for the UFC featherweight world title, holds claim to likely being the most tested bout in MMA history under USADA Anti-Doping.

32-year-old Brazilian Cristiane Justino, commonly known as ‘Cyborg’, defended the Women’s 145lb title with a emphatic unanimous decision over the USA’s former bantamweight champion, Holly Holm, 36.

MMAToday.com broke down the most highly tested match-ups of 2017, topped by the Cyborg-Holm collision on December 30 in Las Vegas. Each athlete was reportedly visited by USADA testers on three occasions leading up to the day of the event, in addition to post-fight samples also being collected.

Adding to their combined totals, within the 30-month period since the UFC-USADA programme was first introduced, Cyborg and Holm have provided the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency with a combined total of 60 test samples (Cyborg 28, Holm 32), based on records from USADA.org. All samples were clear of violations.

In early 2017, Cyborg was granted a retrospective Therapeutic Use Exemption (TUE) having initially tested positive for the banned diuretic spironolactone. An investigation by USADA concluded that she was prescribed the drug by a doctor as treatment for a legitimate medical condition, suffered due to the effects of weight cutting.

The record testing figures served as vindication for the Brazilian, expressed via Cyborg’s official website: CrisCyborg.com. Widely regarded as the best female competitor in MMA  and one of the sport’s outright pound-for-pound standouts, her reputation was tainted in 2011 upon failing a drug test due to use of the banned performance enhancer, stanozolol, and was subsequently suspended from competition for one year and fined $2,500.

“I did a mistake in my career”, she stated, referring to the 2011 incident. “I did, you know. I paid for that. And then I wanted to prove everything [so] I’m the first fighter to at least sign with USADA before the UFC to prove I’m actually clean.”

In 2015 Cyborg made the statement of registering for USADA testing voluntarily, while competing outside of the UFC, under the banner of Invicta Fighting Championships.

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IMMAF Junior Championships (U21s): The next step in talent development

2018 will see IMMAF begin to implement its groundbreaking, regulated youth competition platform.

This begins in June when the 2018 European Championships coincides with the European Youth Open (17-23 June)  – the first event of its kind.  The historic new direction continues in September as China hosts the 2018 Asian Open Championships in Beijing, alongside the inaugural IMMAF Junior MMA World Championships (3-8 September).

Under 21’s competition (for ages 18-20) will be the first wave of new opportunity for young, developing athletes. These competitions will take place under the usual IMMAF Amateur MMA Rules. Meanwhile, the ‘senior’ events remain open to all competitors of 18 and above.

Much like the counterparts and junior divisions of various other sports, such as wrestling or even under-21 soccer teams, IMMAF’s Junior events are designed to provide better opportunity for younger rising stars to shine against fellow competitors of a more limited range of experience. In line with IMMAF’s ethos, they also create a safer competition environment for younger adults who have not yet reached their physical peak. Additionally, the Junior competitions create greater opportunities for national teams to win medals.

IMMAF is currently working to develop the following rule sets tailored for the development of Pre-Junior and Cadet competitors:

U18s (16, 17 year olds): Pre-Junior Rules
U16s (14, 15 year olds): Cadet Rules
U14s (12, 13 year olds): Cadet Rules

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UMMAF board member Matt Hughes receives emotional homecoming at UFC St. Louis

Pictured above: Former UFC champion and Hall of Famer Matt Hughes (left), UMMAF President Frank Babcock (centre), UFC Hall of Famer Frank Trigg (right).

By Dane McGuire, IMMAF U.S. Correspondent

The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the premier professional MMA organization in the world and IMMAF partner, kicked off its 25th year of operation last Sunday with its first trip to the “Gateway to the Midwest”, St. Louis, Missouri, home of national IMMAF member, the USA Mixed Martial Arts Kick International Federation (UMMAF).

On June 16 of last year it was reported by multiple media outlets that two-time UFC welterweight (170-pound) champion, Hall of Fame member, and UMMAF board member Matt Hughes was involved in a terrifying accident with a train near his native Hillsboro, Illinois, that crushed his truck.

As a result, Hughes fell into a month-long coma and was airlifted to HSHS St. John’s Hospital in the city of Springfield. Two months after the accident, Hughes was back on the mats training jiu-jitsu. His appearance in essentially his hometown of St. Louis was his first public appearance since the incident.

Welcomed by a standing ovation, Hughes walked down to his Octagon-side seat with a fighter’s entrance, to his famous walk-out song: “A Country Boy Can Survive”. Hughes was inducted into the  UFC Hall of Fame
in 2010 and retired from competition in 2013 with a final record of 45-9, 17 KOs, 18 submissions.

UFC President Announces St. Louis PPV

In a post-event media scrum it was revealed that the evening brought in a $812,995 gate and an
attendance figure of 10,052—good enough numbers that the UFC will host a pay-per-view (PPV) event in St. Louis when the promotion next visits the city.

“The crowd was awesome in St. Louis,” UFC President Dana White said per USA Today’s MMAJunkie.com. “This place is so great, man. I love the crowd. The whole place was screaming at me to bring a pay-per-view back here, and we will absolutely bring a pay-per-view back here. I loved it.

“When we leave and get further out in the year and start planning dates, St. Louis is definitely on the books. One thing I love about this city, obviously it was a tough week for us with the card changes, but not only did it not affect – the ticket sales went up, they didn’t go down – no returns. This city wanted the UFC, and they were an awesome crowd tonight, and I will reciprocate with a pay-per-view and we’ll be back.”

For the the full event recap visit UMMAF.org.

The 2018 UMMAF National Championships takes place February 1-3 at the Isle of Capri Casino in Boonville, Missouri. It will be the first installment to feature a Youth National Championship for competitors between eight and 17 years old through UMMAF’s new youth development arm, the United States Fight League (USFL.)

Register for the event here. Youth competitors please visit the USFL website’s Nationals page here for more information.

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FIGMMA & NADO Italia: ‘The biggest anti-doping programme for pro MMA outside of UFC/USADA’

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

Saverio Longo, President of the Italian Grappling and Mixed Martial Arts Federation (FIGMMA), believes that his country’s national governing body for MMA is showcasing the best anti-doping programme for professional MMA outside of the groundbreaking UFC-USADA partnership.

In recent months FIGMMA has informed IMMAF of three pro level anti-doping violations and subsequent suspensions for athletes competing within standout European promotion, Venator Fighting Championships, Italy’s leading professional MMA organisation. Suspended athletes included domestic talents Francesco Bocca and Raffaele D’eligio, plus American UFC veteran Cody McKenzie who refused to provide a sample (see report here).

“The Italian Grappling and MMA Federation believes that the use of doping substances in sports constitutes a very serious violation of the principle of loyalty in sport,” a statement read from he FIGMMA President.

“Doping fraudulently alters the skills of the athlete, introducing an unjust and incorrect advantage over other
participants. Moreover, it produces, through an undue manipulation of the body, a damage to the psycho-physical health of the athlete with negative repercussions on the social level.”

Thanks to ties with the Italian National Olympic Committee, anti-doping procedures first took place under FIGMMA in 2012, ordered by the Ministry of Health and performed by the Sport Medical Federation for the official national amateur MMA championships.

While recognised by IMMAF at the international level, FIGMMA’s mixed martial arts regulation is supported at the national level under the Italian federation for judo, wrestling, karate and martial arts (FIJLKAM) – an Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) member, established in 1902.

The high level of recognition opened the door for testing to be introduced to professional MMA in Italy durking 2017, including out-of-competition testing, arranged by the National Anti-Doping Organization (NADO Italy) upon the request of FIGMMA and performed by the Italian Sports Medical Federation.

Testing in Italy is undertaken in accordance with the WADA Code, in collaboration with NADO Italy – an affiliate of the World Anti Doping Agency (WADA).

“The policies put in place by FIGMMA and NADO Italia represent the biggest anti-doping programme in place
for Professional MMA outside of the UFC/USADA,” Longo highlighted.“Including in-competition and out-of-competition tests, we are showing how the use of banned substances is spread among professional MMA athletes in Europe.”

The FIGMMA President believes that the body is exposing the use of banned performance enhancing substances within prominent European MMA events, many of which do not have anti-doping in play.

“All members of the MMA community should be united in supporting IMMAF in its request of becoming a signatory of the WADA Code and member of GAISF, as only a unified effort from the Sanctioning Bodies (National
Federations of IMMAF), the Olympic Committees and WADA can develop an anti-doping programme available to all promoters in each country that can effectively stop the use of performance enhancing drugs in our sport.”

IMMAF implemented its anti-doping policy based on WADA standards in 2015. In-competition testing was introduced at international amateur MMA tournaments, beginning with the 2015 IMMAF World Championships. The IMMAF anti-doping rules are based on strict liability, essential for the health and safety of the sport of MMA and its participants. Anti-doping is in line with IMMAF’s sporting values and the organisation has worked to maintain above and beyond compliance with the WADA Code. IMMAF appointed internationally renowned expert consultancy, Sporting Integrity Ltd, to advise on and develop its anti-doping policy and program.

Click HERE for IMMAF’s anti-doping policy statement.

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The inaugural Oceania Open will be the start of another regional legacy

By IMMAF.org lead writer, Jorden Curran

The region of Oceania will host its first international IMMAF championships in March when Australia launches the 2018 Oceania Open Championships in Melbourne.

For back-to-back years the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation of Australia (IMMAFA) has staged its annual national championships in collaboration with the Arnold Sports Festival, the biggest multi-sport event in the nation.

This year, the Arnold Sports Festival welcomes the Oceania Open with national teams from across the globe set to compete at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre from 16-18 March.

The inaugural Oceania Open will lay the foundations that establish the region as IMMAF’s latest continental hot-spot for top flight amateur competition, following in the footsteps of the the European, African and Asian Open Championships. Each championships brings its own local legacy as part of the commitment to build upon the event’s success, such as community involvement and furthering local exposure of the sport.

Chris Easley, originally from the UK, is a pioneer of MMA in New Zealand and certified IMMAF official. He believes that future youth participation is the focal point that will see MMA flourish and continue the legacy of pioneers from local nations such as Mark Hunt, Robert Whittaker and Jon Tuck. He believes that the youth of Oceania nations could change the face of MMA, due to the great cultural enthusiasm for athletic prowess beginning at the grass roots level.

In 2016 AIMMAA National Commissioner, Daniel Isaac, discussed some of the hurdles ahead of bringing top flight professional MMA to India. The AIMMAA chief highlighted that, despite huge potential within the 1 billion population, the challenge for any promoter is within drawing an audience that is captivated by cricket and Bollywood.

Easley recognizes that within nations such as New Zealand, Samoa and Fiji, much of the youth population are captivated in a similar way, drawn by default towards rugby. Nevertheless, the evolution of a continued campaign, spurred on by a prestigious competition platform, can be the turning point in tapping into this cultural love for contact sport.

“We want to do all we can for the youth within the world of mixed martial arts,” Easley stated, “whether they be participants or simply fans. We hope to bring free entry for school kids at future events and visit the local clubs and schools, host seminars and junior competitions under IMMAF’s upcoming modified rules for youths. Off the back of events such as the Oceania Open, we must continue this kind of momentum and work with our local TV and radio stations. We just need to be persistent in raising the profile of MMA to show parents that this is safe and something to get there kids into.”

The vision comes with good timing. Set for launch later this year, IMMAF continues work to establish pathways for competitive MMA for under 18’s, through tailored events for younger athletes of various age ranges.

The IMMAFA competition programme at the 2018 Arnold Sports Festival Australia will additionally include two further, amateur MMA tournaments:

– IMMAFA Australian ASF Championship
– IMMAFA Modified MMA ASF Championship (mat sport)

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