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IMMAF ‘disappointed’ in Swedish MMA Federation, responds to ‘unfounded allegations’



Images via IMMAF / SMMAF
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A few weeks ago, the Swedish MMA Federation passed a vote to officially leave the International MMA Federation during an extraordinary general meeting where Frontkick reporters participated as spectators. A decision to join rival organization Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts instead also went through with a vast majority of votes.

During the meeting, SMMAF president August Wallén offered insight into some of the issues prompting their decision to recommend cutting all ties with IMMAF, a body that organizes international amateur MMA championships for national teams that was actually founded by Wallén himself in 2012.

Wallén was the first president of the International MMA Federation and would later be named honorary president. During the SMMAF EGM, he explained his concerns regarding democracy, transparency and safeguarding for athletes. George Sallfeldt, a former vice president of IMMAF, backed Wallén up as he participated in the meeting to share his concerns regarding the federation’s financial situation and questionable spending.

Jörgen Hamberg, a longtime coach of the Swedish national team and former SMMAF board member, went as far as to call IMMAF a “big scam” while also accusing its president Kerrith Brown of making “dirty financial decisions” during an interview with Frontkick.

“He puts the money somewhere else. They dismantled the democratic system in IMMAF, moved the finances from a Swedish bank to a bank with less transparency, and refused to account for the economy. It feels like it’s all a big financial crime,” Hamberg told Frontkick’s Tobias Lindkvist.

IMMAF ‘disappointed’ by SMMAF joining GAMMA, accuses Wallen and Sallfeldt of failed ‘takeover’ attempt

Frontkick reached out to multiple people within the IMMAF organization including the president Kerrith Brown, in order to get their side of the story. IMMAF CEO Densign White responded in an email to answer some of our questions.

“We are disappointed with the decision taken by the SMMAF to terminate their membership of IMMAF. Our main concern is for the negative impact that this will have on their athletes. However the decision has been made and we wish them well in their new home of GAMMA,” White wrote.

White also commented on issues raised by Wallen and Sallfeldt, offering an alternative explanation to their fallout.

“Last year in June 2023 the IMMAF members in an EGM voted unanimously to remove August Wallén and George Sallfeldt from the IMMAF, so upset were they that these two individuals would undermine the leadership and the federation with unfounded allegations in public.”

“IMMAF is a democratic and transparent organisation and I would challenge you to find another international federation that has a better record than we do in this regard”

According to White, they were basically attempting a takeover that failed.

“The bottom line is this, August and George and others were attempting a takeover of IMMAF and they failed. They failed because the vast majority of our members know who has been doing the work in IMMAF the past 10 years and it was not them,” White wrote, adding:

“You can find the minutes from that meeting on the IMMAF website as well as the IMMAF safeguarding policy that you asked about.”

The issue of safeguarding was raised since a convicted rapist of a minor was appointed head coach of the Bulgarian national MMA team, and subsequently went on to attend three youth world championships with IMMAF allegedly dismissing concerns as rumors despite there being a number of online news articles in Bulgaria reporting on the matter.

GAMMA is backed by ONE Championship. What about IMMAF? Are they still sponsored by the UFC?

Another issue raised by Sallfeldt has been IMMAF’s relationship with the UFC. Sallfeldt originally landed a sponsorship agreement after negotiations with former UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta, with the UFC pledging a million dollars annually to IMMAF as a way of investing in the future of MMA.

However, according to Sallfeldt, the UFC also started raising concerns with the IMMAF’s accounting and later halted their involvement after their initial 10-year agreement had come to an end. White would neither confirm nor deny this as he chose not to respond to our questions regarding the UFC, simply stating:

“There is nothing further that we would like to add except to say that IMMAF is a democratic and transparent organisation and I would challenge you to find another international federation that has a better record than we do in this regard.”

While it’s surely a bit weird for IMMAF to emphasize how transparent they are while simultaneously dodging important questions, it should be noted that IMMAF does actually provide a whole lot of transparency on their official websites including annual reports, minutes from board meetings as well as an internal Q&A with Densign White from June of 2023 that actually provided answers to multiple burning questions at the time. In that Q&A, White addressed the UFC situation briefly and basically said that IMMAF were actively trying to re-up the agreement, but that chances to land a new deal would be lowered by what he called “continuing undermining of IMMAF”.

“Co-operation with the UFC has not been terminated,” White stated in June of 2023. “We have weekly meetings with the UFC. There is still the possibility that they could sponsor IMMAF in 2024. However, if there is this continuing undermining of IMMAF by a minority of members this opportunity will diminish as will our recognition with SportAccord.”

IMMAF rival GAMMA is backed by ONE Championship in a “multi-year seven-figure partnership”. The Swedish MMA Federation has argued that GAMMA’s sponsorship money are being spent more wisely, with cheaper membership costs and championship starting fees as well as hotels and transportation for all athletes.

At this point, we’ll just have to sit back and watch the development of both IMMAF and GAMMA to see whether or not the Swedish MMA Federation and its voting members made the right decision to switch organizations. The Swedish national MMA team is expected to be represented with several athletes at the 2024 GAMMA world championship in Jakarta, Indonesia later this year.

Here’s every question Frontkick asked, and the full answer we got from Densign White

For transparency, we’ll list every question we posed as well as the full statement we got from Densign White. Press “Next” to continue reading!

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