IMMAF has claimed that it should be running the African Games tournament ©IMMAF

The International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) has claimed that the decision to exclude it from the African Games competition is "difficult to understand".

MMA has been chosen as one of five demonstration sports for next year's delayed Games in Ghana but IMMAF's rival the Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA) has been chosen to run the sport.

IMMAF has claimed that it has "unquestioned pre-eminence" in advancing amateur MMA in Africa.

It held the seventh edition of its African Championships in Luanda in Angola last month.

"IMMAF stands as the sole global governing authority that has consistently orchestrated continental amateur championships in Africa," the governing body said.

"With the first event taking place in 2016, IMMAF has since successfully held seven Africa Championships with the latest edition taking place for the first time in Luanda, Angola. 

"As such, it has come as a surprise that a rival governing body for MMA, known as GAMMA, has managed to secure the rights to showcase MMA as an exhibition sport at the upcoming African Games. 

"This development has raised questions, particularly given IMMAF's unquestioned pre-eminence and dedicated efforts in advancing amateur MMA in Africa.

"There are 19 African IMMAF federations affiliated to the Africa Mixed Martial Arts Confederation (AMMAC) who are directly recognised by their Governments or National Olympic Committees - and the number continues to grow - which makes the African Games decision difficult to understand."

IMMAF, unlike GAMMA, is a signatory of the World Anti-Doping Agency and claims to be in "advanced talks" with the International Olympic Committee over recognition.

But GAMMA received recognition from the Association of African Sports Confederations (AASC) in 2022.

GAMMA President Alexander Engelhardt, right, visited Ghana this month ©GAMMA
GAMMA President Alexander Engelhardt, right, visited Ghana this month ©GAMMA

In June, AASC President Ahmed Nasser said GAMMA had been carrying out "great work" to promote MMA in Africa.

"AMMAC's primary objective is to establish a unified platform for MMA in Africa, fostering collaboration, talent identification, and technical advancement," said Goowtamsingh Ramtohul, President of the AMMAC. 

"For this reason, we are disappointed that AMMAC/IMMAF has not been given the opportunity to showcase our hard work on the African continent by being given the honour to represent the growing sport of MMA at the African Games. 

"We will continue to work hard to lobby representatives and will ensure that are arguments are based on facts, past achievements and objective arguments." 

A GAMMA delegation led by President Alexander Engelhardt travelled to Ghana earlier this month to assess preparations for the Games.

GAMMA member the Ghana Mixed Martial Arts Association will help run the competition.

"We are extremely honoured to be part of the 13th African Games in Ghana," said Engelhardt after the visit. 

"We can see all the work that is going into making these Games a success and while there is still a lot to be done, I am sure that it will be a great spectacle of an event."

Ghana was due to host the African Games this year but its extreme debt and a dispute over marketing rights pushed the multi-sport event into 2024.

Dates of March 8 to 23 have been set.

A GAMMA statement sent to insidethegames said: "GAMMA is the only official international governing body recognised for the sport of MMA in Africa by the African Sports Confederation."