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MMA: Politics rears its ugly head again in Jordan

road to phoenix

Politics: activities aimed at improving someone’s status or increasing power within an organization.

It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise for those of us who are familiar with the sports, and in particular MMA, scene in the Middle East that ‘politics’ has claimed another scalp on Monday with the cancellation of the ‘Road to Phoenix’ show that was due to take place in Amman, Jordan on the 23rd of March, 2018.

The announcement was made mid-yesterday by the CEO of the promotion, Yerevanian, with the reasoning given being that the Kickboxing, Muay Thai and Kung Fu Federations respectively have revoked their athletes the permission to compete at the event. The million dollar question we have to ask here is… why? Why would these federations stop their athletes from competing at the event? Could the event have continued on without athletes who are part of these federations? What penalties would these athletes have faced if they had decided to compete despite their federation not officially allowing them to? Unfortunately, we will probably never know the answer to these questions or even the most important question – what is the real rationale behind this ban? Why would one international MMA promotion be allowed to host an event in the Kingdom a few weeks earlier whilst this promotion had their event taken away from them only five days before the event? It is important to analyze the differences here and see what can be learned from it.

Having spoken to a few of the organizers of both events and some of the fighters who were to participate on the card, the only difference appears to be that Brave chose to only work with the Jiu-Jitsu federation, which officially oversees MMA competition in the Kingdom, whilst Phoenix worked with the above three mentioned Federations in addition to the Jiu-Jitsu Federation. It is widely known that Brave were asked to pay the Jiu-Jitsu Federation the sum of 10,000 JOD (approximately 14,000 USD) to be able to host the event in Jordan under the premise that the Federation would assist them with many things including visas, permits, ambulances etc… Bare in mind, the Brazilian MMA federation charges a flat 5,000 USD to commission events and in return offer not only assistance with visas and security and permits, but also cover the costs and services of referees, judges, cutmen, commissioners and a lot more. If you had spoken to some of the organizers from Brave, they were given barely any support from the Federation and even had to resort to speaking to ‘higher ups’ to assist them with the visas for 5 athletes and were actually forced to consider shifting the entire event to Bahrain just a few days before the event.

politics mma

One could argue that Phoenix went over and above their duties by working not only with the Jiu-Jitsu federation, but with the three above mentioned federations as well. Was this because they were hosting an event for amateur fighters, many of whom are members of the federations? Or are Phoenix maybe paying the price for being ‘too correct’? As absurd as that sounds, balancing the ego of one Federation is hard enough. Balancing the egos of four Federations is an almost impossible task. Rumors abound that the three federations were asking for a similar fee to what the Jiu-Jitsu federation had earlier charged. If this is true, then we can assume that the federations are 1) short sighted 2) greedy and 3) have no idea of the economics of the sport. Let me help them:

MMA IS NOT A MONEYMAKER FOR PROMOTIONS, ESPECIALLY IN THE MIDDLE EAST

Surprised? You shouldn’t be. Most MMA promotions in the world are not generating a profit and you can be sure that Brave and Phoenix are nowhere near breaking even given the cost of production for the shows in a market with little consumer spending power. How can the federation expect an amateur event that was priced to enable every Jordanian to attend (2JD’s per ticket) to pay 40,000 JOD (approx.. 56,500 USD) just for the right to hold the event in the Kingdom?

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This was a tremendous missed opportunity for a country that is arguably the capital of MMA in the region and that has been starved of MMA shows to host two major shows in less than thirty days. The federations should hang their head in shame. They are tasked with promoting and growing sport, but have done the complete opposite and have purposefully and selfishly chosen to pass on that opportunity because of the ego of a handful of people.

The worst part is that it is not the federations that will pay the price for this missed opportunity. That burden falls squarely on the shoulders of the fans, and even worse, the athletes.

Politics in MMA in our region is not a new thing. Whether it be inter- or cross-promotional politics, the MMA ban in Lebanon and Morocco, regional geopolitics playing into decisions or the complete mess that is Egyptian MMA. As a fan, I can only plead and ask that all stakeholders in this game, from fighters to managers to gyms to federations to promotions, to keep politics out of this game. You are ruining it for all of us.

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