Vadim Finkelchtein Talks WMMAA, The Future of MMA and Fedor Emelianenko
By PDG Staff
World Mixed Martial Arts Association (WMMAA) President Vadim Finkelchtein, who founded the sanctioning organization in 2012, continues to lead WMMAA and the sport into a very bright future.
In four short years, WMMAA has already developed into the strongest sanctioning body in the MMA world, hosting some of the sport’s most prestigious championships, as well as creating a highly respected culture in throughout sports worldwide.
Finkelchtein answered some pertinent questions below about WMMAA, its past and future, in addition to addressing the growth of mixed martial arts:
PDG: Can you tell us about you and your experience in Martial Arts?
VF: “I practiced judo when I was a kid. Back then there was no MMA whatsoever.”
PDG: How did you first enter the world of MMA?
VF: “In 1995, I was offered an opportunity to sponsor an MMA event. That’s when I learned about and fell in love with no holds barred, or free-fight, as it was called then. In 1997, I organized my own event in Russia. The rest is history.”
PDG: When did you first hear of MMA and what was your first impression? Did you expect this sport to grow as much as it has today?
VF: “When I saw my first MMA event in 1995, I was amazed by its scale and how many people came to watch. People were genuinely interested. It was a whole other level and approach to a sports event. And I had seen a lot so I could compare empirically. I have always believed in MMA and expected it would eventually become the number one sport in the world, although back then no one would acknowledge MMA as a sport. Our athletes and fight teams had a hard time. They were not even welcome in sambo gyms to train there. It was a long and a hard way to change MMA’s image that was deemed as human cock fighting or closely related to organized crime. Thanks to the fact I have never had any relations to crime, when this sport landed in my hands in late 90’s, it helped greatly as we were able to turn the tide and after all these years to help governments to officially recognize MMA.”
PDG: What is your function and main activities within WMMAA?
VF: “I founded the World MMA Association in 2012 because I felt the time had come. MMA is the fastest growing sport and it’s time to start developing it at another level, giving it a new but essential dimension. Due to its popularity, thousands of fans of all ages started practicing in Mixed Martial Arts. At that moment, I had accumulated a vast network in multiple countries. I knew countless numbers of activists across the globe, so the start was destined to happen. From the get-go over 20 countries joined the WMMAA family. At this moment there are over 60 countries and counting.”
PDG: How would you assess WMMAA’s progress during its three year existence?
VF: “WMMAA is still in its infancy. Yes, we lack experience and financing, and MMA is a new kind of sport in many regions. But I have to say that we’re growing and the last World Championship in Czech Republic proved it. Over 40 national teams flew to Prague with over 200 athletes. The level of competition evolved so much. The organizational level was also high and we are thankful to our Czech MMA Federation for its great work. This World Championship proved there is demand for MMA around the world.”
PDG: What are the main goals of WMMAA and what are the main obstacles facing
VF: “The goals are to encourage as many countries as possible to join the WMMAA
family, to facilitate them in their struggle to get MMA recognized in their respective countries, helping them develop amateur MMA. There are countless obstacles but I firmly believe we’ll prevail.”
PDG: Were there any countries that stood out or surprised you?
VF: “China surprised me a lot. They joined WMMAA recently but since then they’ve shown solid results. Also, I enjoyed the performance of Latin American teams. It was their debut but one Colombian kid (Andrey Roa Ruiz Dumar) won a bronze medal and that was great.
Once again, Russia won the majority of the medals due to amateur MMA there developing with extremely rapid strides ever since early 2012. Fedor Emelianenko is the main locomotive and driving force in Russia. The selection process there is just unbelievable. You can’t imagine how many steps one needs to make in order to become the champion of the Russian Federation. The City Championship, Oblast Championship, regional and national championship. Each of these events consists of at least three fights, which means that a Russian champion will probably have had at least won 15 fights under his belt by the time of the European or World Championships. Only truly the best get to the top. Imagine this: around 7,000 athletes participated in the aforementioned events in 2015.”
PDG: What are the 2016 mid-term goals for WMMAA?
VF: “The normal routine is to hold the Asian Championship, Pan-American Championship, multiple referee and judge seminars and certifications, then prepare for the European and, consequently, the World Championship that will coincide with the annual Congress.”
PDG: Can you describe what 2015 was like for WMMAA?
VF: “I was amazed with the Asian Championship in Tajikistan with thousands and thousands of fans at the stacked football stadium. I enjoyed watching how many people turned their eyes to an amateur MMA event.”
PDG: What words of wisdom would you like to share with the members of WMMAA family?
VF: “I’d ask all WMMAA members to adhere to the agreements and decisions we reached collectively. It pertains to the set of rules, judging process, equipment, unified rules, and youth sports development.”
PDG: WMMAA keeps expanding, however, there are still multiple countries that are not yet WMMAA members. Why should any local Federation apply for WMMAA membership?
VF: “WMMAA is the strongest MMA organization there is. We plan to continuously hold regional and world championships and keep developing and evolving. Athletes’ ethical upbringing is also our target. We believe this sport can give so much to the world in various ways and we put a lot of effort into its development. We’ll gladly accept strong and worthy partners into our ranks.”
“We are truly an amateur association, although others may think we are not. The thing is it’s rather hard to verify the real records of MMA athletes. There is no official and ubiquitous database or instance that would provide 100-percentreliable and accurate information pertaining to the amount of fights under someone’s belt. Some amateur fights might be recorded as professional and professional fights as amateur, which was the reason for us canceling the previous rule of pro fight limitation for the time being, in order to develop a new system of fighters’ eligibility evaluation. We are working on that as we speak.”
PDG: People keep asking: why should we use SportID and SportData. Can you explain why it is so essential?
VF: “We are an official and credible sport. Our association ought to be transparent. These databases show the data on athletes, their statistics and numbers. They show the quantitative as well as qualitative growth of mixed martial artists. They facilitate in overseeing the championships registered in SportData, helping to broadcast them. Furthermore, they contain so many functions that it would take me forever to discuss it. Just think of rankings, both individual and national, fighters’ profiles and so on. I need to remind everyone that, based on the Congress decision, the use of and registration in these databases are mandatory for all our members.”