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MMA Debut at the 2023 African Games: One Step Towards Achieving GAMMA’s Olympic Games Ambitions

MMA Debut at the 2023 African Games: One Step Towards Achieving GAMMA’s Olympic Games Ambitions

ACCRA 2023: Mixed Martial Arts makes debut at African Games - Afrocritik

These exhibition or demonstration games do more than just try to get a spot at the Olympics; they reveal how much MMA has grown and the hard work of its fighters who hope to make history in the Olympics soon.

By Tuka Letura

The Global Association of Mixed Martial Arts (GAMMA) is leading a big charge in sports by vying to make Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) a part of the Olympic Games. GAMMA was founded in 2018 and is based in Amsterdam, with its members made up of national federations from over 70 countries. The body’s main objective is for MMA to achieve international recognition as an Olympic sport and to provide its athletes the opportunity to compete on that stage. In 2022, it received recognition from the Association of African Sports Confederations (AASC). The African Games have been a key step in this process, showing exciting MMA fights as a preview of what can be achieved. 11 African Nations; Benin Republic, Burkina Faso, Côte D’Ivoire, Egypt, Ghana, Libya, Mauritius, Nigeria, Sudan, Togo and Uganda, have competed in the male and female categories of exhibition games at the ongoing African Games in Accra, Ghana. This was part of AASC’s plan when they put pen to paper with GAMMA in 2022.

These fights are just for showcasing  the sport at this year’s games. In the next games in 2027, fighters will be eligible for medals. These exhibition or demonstration games more than just try to get a spot at the Olympics; they reveal  how much MMA has grown and the hard work of its fighters who hope to make history in the Olympics soon.

Notable for hosting international championships like the MMA World Championships 2021, GAMMA has elevated MMA’s profile globally, despite sharing the Mixed Martial Arts regulatory stage with the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF). Both play an equally important role in the promotion Mixed Martial Arts. The IMMAF focuses on developing amateur MMA and aims for Olympic recognition and has over 100 member nations. GAMMA, just like the IMMAF also seeks Olympic sport status for MMA, promoting the sport through global events and championships for amateur fighters.

MMA is a competitive full-contact sport that incorporates techniques from various martial arts, allowing striking, grappling, and ground fighting within a set of unified rules. All of these resonate and bear some resemblance to native fight techniques across Africa and that makes it easier for fans and spectators to tune in. The sport has experienced exponential growth, transitioning from a niche interest to one of the fastest-growing sports in Africa. GAMMA’s efforts extend beyond event management, advocating for athlete safety, fair play, and promoting MMA as a legitimate combat sport at every level. 

ACCRA 2023: Mixed Martial Arts makes debut at African Games - Afrocritik

For a lot of Africans, the first set of names that would come to mind when MMA is mentioned would include the likes of  Cameroon’s Francis Ngannou, who took a leaf into the boxing world in March 2024, Nigeria’s Kamaru Usman, and Nigeria-Born Kiwi, Israel Adesanya. All three have established themselves in the Ultimate Fighting Championship  (UFC) across the varying weight classes they’ve fought in. 

Adesanya has been a two-time UFC Middleweight Champion, with notable victories over fighters like fellow Kiwi, Robert Whittaker in February 2022, and America’s Kelvin Gastelum in April 2019. Ngannou has been the UFC Heavyweight Champion and is known for his incredible punching power, ending many of his fights by knockout. For the “Nigerian Nightmare” Kamaru Usman, he has held the UFC Welterweight Championship with multiple successful title defenses. He’s also a winner of The Ultimate Fighter 21 Tournament. 

Other notable names in the sport include Sodiq Yusuff of Nigeria and Dricus Du Plessis of South Africa. Their collective achievements have not only brought them individual fame and recognition but have also significantly contributed to the popularity and growth of MMA both in Africa and on a global scale.

At the ongoing African Games and now concluded MMA events, athletes looked to begin writing their names at a continental and eventually at the international stage. So far, they have delivered a series of thrilling matches in the various weight categories.

In the men’s 145 lb category, Nigeria’s Eweh Emmanuel Benard secured a technical knockout against Ghana’s Nortey William Adom one minute and 47 seconds into the second round. Meanwhile, in the women’s 105 lb category, Egypt’s Dalia Abodeff emerged victorious by a unanimous decision over Nigeria’s Peter Winifred Agara.

The men’s 125 lb weight class saw a swift victory for Mauritius’ Sookhoo Bhirsing, who achieved a technical knockout just 17 seconds into the first round against Ghana’s Kotoka Felix. In a similar display of agility, Idoo Bhojul Mohammad Ajmal from Mauritius defeated Nigeria’s Aziba Martins in the 205 lb category with a technical knockout 19 seconds into the second round.

Unanimous decisions by the judges were a common thread in several matches. Togo’s Awassiou Welike triumphed in the 135 lb men’s category against Nigeria’s Gabriel Karo after a full match. Nigeria’s Idowu Busayo Khadijat won in the 115 lb women’s category against Ghana’s Boakye Elizabeth, and Aka Miezan Prince Mensan from Ivory Coast secured a win in the 155 lb men’s category against Benin’s Sewanou Jacques Jouton.

Nigeria’s Sodiq Olanike Rasheeda claimed victory in the women’s 135 lb category against Mauritius’ Rassool Bibi Oumee Hanee Meherin, while Eze Daniel Emeke from Nigeria won in the 185 lb men’s category against Benin’s Houssou Michael Mahugnon. In the women’s 145 lb category, Nigeria’s Obanla Joy Ebanda achieved a technical knockout in the first round against Ghana’s Abubakari Winnie.

The men’s 170 lb category witnessed a submission victory by Mauritius’ Ramzan Abdul Aziim over Egypt’s Mohamed Elsayed just 1 minute and 50 seconds into the first round. Lastly, in the men’s 265 lb category, Nigeria’s Muzan Richard won by a unanimous decision against Ivory Coast’s Fanny Dago after the match.

MMA fighter, Ramzan Abdul Aziim of Mauritius at the 2023 All African Games - Afrocritik
Ramzan Abdul Aziim of Mauritius

These bouts highlighted the competitive spirit and skillful execution of the athletes, with technical knockouts and unanimous decisions marking the path to victory for many. The matches were also a testament to the dedication and prowess of the fighters, leaving an indelible mark on the sport.

Athletes who finished in podium places received exhibition medals but that didn’t add to the tally of their respective countries. Here’s a full list of final placings by weight classes and sex categories.

2023 Africa Games MMA Final Placings:  Male Category 

56.7 kg | – 125 lbs

  • Sookhoo Bhirsing (Mauritius)
  • Kotoka Felix (Ghana)

61.2 kg | – 135 lbs

  • Awassiou Welike (Togo)
  • Gabriel Karo (Nigeria)
  • Issa Boussim (Burkina Faso)
  • Etrue Joseph (Ghana)

65.8 kg | – 145 lbs

  • Sylvain Kokou (Togo)
  • Eweh Emmanuel Benard (Nigeria)
  • Entusah Mubarak Muhammed (Ghana)
  • Nortey William Adom (Ghana)

70.3 kg | – 155 lbs

  • Aka Miezan Prince Mensan (Ivory Coast)
  • Sewanou Jacques Jouton (Benin)
  • Destiny Freddy (Nigeria)
  • Albert Idowu Lucky (Nigeria)

77.1 kg | – 170 lbs

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  • Ramzan Abdul Aziim (Mauritius)
  • Mohamed Elsayed (Egypt)
  • Ekoue Douhadji (Togo)
  • Obeya John (Nigeria)

83.9 kg | – 185 lbs

  • Eze Daniel Emeke (Nigeria)
  • Houssou Michael Mahugnon (Benin)
  • Affognon Jhon-Kennedy (Benin)
  • Marcel Yao (Ivory Coast)

93.0 kg | – 205 lbs

  • Idoo Bhojul Mohammad Ajmal (Mauritius)
  • Aziba Martins (Nigeria)
  • Mohamed Ashaat (Egypt)
  • Sibiri Ben Ali Toe (Burkina Faso)

-120.2 kg | – 265 lbs

  • Muzan Richard (Nigeria)
  • Fanny Dago (Ivory Coast)
  • Gaoussou Sanou (Burkina Faso)
  • Niane Oumar (Ghana)
GAMMA - MMA exhibition games at the 2023 All African Games - Afrocritik
Exhibition medals

2023 Africa Games MMA Placings:  Female Category 

47.6 kg | – 105 lbs

  • Dalia Abodeff (Egypt)
  • Peter Winifred Agara (Nigeria)
  • Ankrah Leticia Amanua (Ghana)

52.2 kg | – 115 lbs

  • Idowu Busayo Khadijat (Nigeria)
  • Boakye Elizabeth (Ghana)

61.2 kg | – 135 lbs

  • Sodiq Olanike Rasheeda (Nigeria)
  • Rassool Bibi Oumee Hanee Meherin (Mauritius)

65.8 kg | – 145 lbs

  • Obanla Joy Ebanda (Nigeria)
  • Abubakari Winnie (Ghana)

Debates have been had over scoring and safety issues in MMA. Scoring in MMA, based on the 10-point must system, has been debated due to inconsistencies in applying criteria, lack of transparency, and confusion over round scoring, particularly the distinction between 10-9 and 10-8 rounds. Safety concerns also arise, with discussions on the adequacy of protective measures and regulations to prevent serious injuries in this high-impact sport. 

The exhibition games at the ongoing African Games have shown that it can indeed be done and MMA can become an Olympic sport. As it stands, MMA enthusiasts will have to wait for future Olympic Games beyond Paris 2024 for the possibility of seeing the sport included.

Tuka Letura is an experienced sports writer with over five years of experience in the craft. He uses data and statistics to provide analysis and commentary. From regional to worldwide competitions, he has covered a wide range of sports-related events and topics. He is devoted to sharing his enthusiasm for sports with his audience and engaging them with interesting anecdotes and viewpoints.

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