Malaysian team heads to IMMAF World Championships amid amateur status controversy

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Five of the original seven who claimed titles on the first season of Malaysian Invasion MMA have been selected to compete as Team Malaysia at The inaugural IMMAF World Championships in Amateur MMA, set to take place in Las Vegas, USA on June 30, 2014.

Featherweight Allen Solomon Chong, bantamweight Prabu Somanaidu, heavyweight Adrian Tham, middleweight Jim Chong Jing Yi and featherweight Keanu Subba are en route to Las Vegas to participate in the event, which takes place during the UFC Fan Expo 2014. All of them started in a pool of hundreds of fighters, and through tryouts and ladder matches to the brackets which led to the finals, they each excelled in their division.

The Finals event was sponsored by Tune Talk, held in an arena, featured three ONE FC-sponsored bouts, and drew in over 3,000 people. It was a monuments step up for the nascent sport of MMA in Malaysia. The review of the exciting event can be read here. The champs are required to defend their belts against the Season 2 winners later this year.  Most notable of the group was Chong, who – while he does reside in Malaysia – is ethnically Chinese and passed the test to get into the competition of the very first UFC TUF in China.

However, the IMMAF event poses a stiff schedule for these seasoned amateurs. A explained by the Malaysia MMA Association (MASMMA), these fighters are facing a challenge of epic proportions more staunch than any they might have faced before.

The tournament will run for a week with each weight division as a single elimination tournament that – depending on the size of the division will run for four or five days before reaching the finals. Each weight division will run one full round of competitions per day, which means that all contestants will participate in a maximum of one match per day, and a total of four or five matches over the course of the week for those who reach the final.

For the Malaysia team, it hasn’t been smooth sailing to get to the cream of the crop and make this international tournament. They were selected out of 75 countries, and are the only team representing Southeast Asia.

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Controversy has also reared its ugly head. Just as the team was preparing for their trip abroad, the IMMAF called into question several fighters’ records on Sherdog which listed them as having been in professional fights. The media picked up on it too. Skippy Cohen, Vice President of MMAMadhouse.com, which specializes in covering regional and local MMA events all over the world, took note of it as well,

“3 pro fighters from Malaysia are now listed as amateurs on Sherdog and they will be fighting in Vegas at the World AMMY Championships. Keanu Subba, Adrian Tham, Prabu Somanaidu”.

MMA-in-ASIA contacted MASMMAA staff, as well as the team leaders traveling to the US, regarding the changes on the Sherdog site that had yet to be reflected on Tapology, which also records fights. An official response was issued from MASMMAA, the recently-organized official sanctioning body for MMA in Malaysia, which is established under Malaysia’s Ministry of Sports, Kementerian Belia Dan Sukan:

The governing body of mixed martial arts in Malaysia, MASMMAA, is reviewing previous martial arts contests in Malaysia to protect the integrity of the professional status. We will have a meeting to finalize the decision on what events have been held with a proper professional guidelines. Events with amateur guidelines will be settled as amateur, and not be recorded as professional.

Alex Wong, Deputy President of MASMMAA, confirmed to MMA-in-ASIA that meetings will take place with all of the promotions who have held MMA events in Malaysia.

However, by notifying a Sherdog staff to change the status of the bouts in question by the IMMAF, MASMMAA has already ruled that because of those promotions’ rules, lack of contracts, and/or non-payment of prize money, the bouts of the promotions in question – which immediately includes Ultimate Beatdown, F-3, and Malaysian FC – are considered to be amateur.

MASMMAA representatives responded to the IMMAF’s questioning in a manner to clarify what specifically makes these fights considered amateur:

No contractual obligation, no cash incentive, along with guidelines abiding by amateur rules (including 3 minute rounds, no knees or elbows and/or heel hooks)… declare “pro” to an amateur rule set… it’s not right. This is why having the MASMMA Association is so vital, to differentiate pro and amateur fights and events. This will not be a problem in the future.

MMA-in-ASIA contacted the Director of Ultimate Beatdown, Melvin Yeoh Chian Yik, who is a professional MMA fighter under ONE FC and widely considered to be the “godfather of MMA in Malaysia” due to his promotion of the sport since 2006. His comments on the situation were encouraging and immediately backed up the sanctioning body’s acts:

When MMA in Malaysia started, we were not really planning to put records in Sherdog since the level was really super low in 2010. We never asked to be listed in Sherdog between 2010 and 2012. All of the rules we used were amateur – 3-4 minute rounds, no elbows, 6 ounce gloves – although there were no shin pads or head gear. But now MMA in Malaysia has a better system, since we have an MMA association to regulate it all.

With the hastily-implemented changes MASMMA has made now explained, the focus can turn back to the athletes who are making history as the first Malaysian amateur MMA fighters to compete in the first internationally organized amateur championship. MMA-in-ASIA will follow their progress through the tournament and regularly update their results.

After the event, Malaysia can get back to business settling its sanctioning affairs. Hopefully MASMMAA will look seriously at each and every one of the 32 events and 100 fighters the changes they intend to make will affect. In a country whose MMA scene is still developing, it is important that the experience at amateur level will be seen as a badge of honor, and that pro status does not equate to capability as a fighter.

 

Press release:

KUALA LUMPUR, 25 JUNE 2014 – Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) in Malaysia has reached another milestone. At the inaugural International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) World Championships which is going to be held in Las Vegas Nevada, United States of America from 29 June 2014 to 7 July 2014, a national team of talented MMA fighters will represent the country and compete at the championship which involves teams from all over the world. This occasion is made possible for “Team Malaysia” by the sanction of the Ministry of Youth and Sports Malaysia (Kementerian Belia dan Sukan Malaysia) who remains our staunchest supporter and ally.

At the IMMAF World Championships, the world will witness the first ever amateur world champions to be crowned across all weight categories at the Ultimate Fighting Championship Fan Expo in July 2014. Amateur fighters from around the world including Malaysia have competed for the honour of representing their countries, and our national team is ready to hit Las Vegas!

Minister of Youth and Sports, YB Khairy Jamaluddin said “This is a momentous achievement for Malaysia as we are the only Southeast Asian country taking part and the only recognised SEA MMA Federation. Indeed, MMA has come a long way in Malaysia and MASMMAA (Persatuan Mixed Martial Arts Malaysia) will continue to identify and to work with the best MMA organisations in the world to ensure Malaysians will have the opportunities to test themselves against the world’s best. We hope to continue charting the roadmap to have Malaysians enjoy the best MMA successes in the time to come.”

After months of going through the selection process, 5 fighters have been chosen to represent the country. Prabu Somanaidu, Alllen Solomon Chong, Keanu Subba, Adrian Tham and Jim Chong Jing Yi will carry the Malaysian flag in Las Vegas with the hopes of showing to the world what Malaysians are made of. These 5 fighters are the talents unearth through the Malaysian Invasion Mixed Martial Arts Fighting Championship (MIMMA) organized by Tune Talk, in which all of them are the current champions. This further proves the credibility of them to represent the country at the IMMAF Fighting Championships.

The team will be led by a group of officials to ensure everything goes smoothly. Cody Stevens, a seasoned professional MMA fighter and Matthew Pellino, a seasoned collegiate wrestler, will be the coaching team for the fighters. Both are from America but they are common to the MMA scene in Asia especially Malaysia. Brent Yap, the MASMMAA secretary will act as the team manager, and Alex Wong the Deputy President of the MASMMAA will be the chef de mission.

The journey of Team Malaysia to Las Vegas is also made possible with the involvement of reputable companies and brands that are very supportive towards our efforts in establishing the sport in Malaysia. Among those companies are Everybody Martial Arts, Tiger Muay Thai & MMA Training Camp, All Fit Gym, Throwdown Malaysia, Kick Boxers Equipment and Supplies, Met Rx Malaysia and KT Tape Malaysia. With their support, the passage of Team Malaysia to Las Vegas is smoother. The fighters are very motivated to dominate the IMMAF World Championship with all the support given by all companies especially Ministry of Youth and Sports.

The President of MASMMAA, Jalluddin Abu Hassan said “The IMMAF World Championship will further establish Malaysia on the MMA world map and as an MMA powerhouse in Asia. MASMMA is always looking for channels to develop the sport in Malaysia. By sending the team to Las Vegas, we are setting a benchmark to all the fighters locally so that they will push themselves to a level in which they can compete internationally. Team Malaysia will make sure everyone in Las Vegas will remember the name of our country. Not everything that happens in Vegas stays in Vegas!”

For more details please visit:

http://www.immaf.org/

http://www.immaf.org/worldchampionships/