Comment: IMMAF success means Government can no longer deny MMA

In a time where mixed martial arts receives no funding and is served plenty of vitriol, it’s remarkable that a sport that is thrown to the wolves, continues to excel against all the odds.

While thousands of spectators donned their Irish jerseys and made their way to the Aviva Stadium on Saturday night, it is likely that the majority in attendance would have been blissfully unaware of a sizeable medal haul for some of Ireland’s young MMA stars.

Bahrain held host to the IMMAF Championships last week and Saturday saw Ireland pick up five medals from the competition including SBG stand out, Lee Hammond who previously was in camp with Conor McGregor during his camp for the Chad Mendes fight in 2015.

While RTE did mention the achievements, it has obviously been lost in the deluge of think pieces surrounding the Ireland rugby team’s latest victory.

While it may be on a smaller stage, it’s still of vital importance that such victories earn their rightful place in the media spotlight.

MMA fans and pundits have had to deal with a lot of ill informed opinion pieces of late but very little is said about the positives of this sport particularly on a domestic level.

Even if the coverage for mixed martial arts has slowed down considerably, a minister for sport who doesn’t seem to care about the sport and zero government funding, the sport has continued to grow and produce some excellent homegrown talent.

This stems from the various gyms across the country who embrace the mantra of mixed martial arts and constantly promote a sense of community and teamwork which gets lost in the hyperbolic statements that the sport “is barbaric” etc.

There is a reason why plenty of mixed martial artists in this country I have spoken to have said that they have a sense of belonging or that taking up MMA has saved their life.

What people see in the cage is the sport. It can be gruesome at times admittedly but there have been far worse things in boxing and that doesn’t get the unfair treatment MMA does.

It’s time for the government to wake up and start recognising MMA as a sport. Education is key and goes a long way to dispelling the countless myths that surround mixed martial arts.

Our athletes deserve support and funding. It’s time to give it to them.

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