John Kavanagh: I’ll happily step down as IMMAA president when MMA is recognized in Ireland

MMA Fighting

John Kavanagh has responded to Cage Warriors CEO Graham Boylan’s claims that he is too conflicted to act as Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) president due to his own activity as a promoter.

Kavanagh recently re-launched his Euro Fight Night promotion and has strong links to Bellator. Recently, Boylan and Kavanagh have clashed on social media due to their respective affiliations with Cage Warriors and Bellator.

Ahead of Cage Warriors 110, Boylan revealed that he had not been contacted by the IMMAA in the lead up to the event, despite the association endeavoring to become the national MMA governing body in Ireland. Cage Warriors gained full medical clearance from Safe MMA Ireland ahead of the Cork event. Safe MMA Ireland is chief medical advisor to IMMAA.

Speaking to MMA Fighting in the wake of the event, IMMAA president Kavanagh explained that the reason IMMAA were present at Irish events hosted by Bellator and UFC in the past is because the body was invited to shadow the promotions. He thinks the main reason that IMMAA was not on the ground in Cork for Cage Warriors 110 on Saturday because Cage Warriors did not extend an invite to IMMAA to attend.

The SBG head coach underlined that IMMAA is still in the process of gaining government recognition from Sport Ireland, which will allow IMMAA to become the bonafide MMA regulatory body in Ireland. Currently, IMMAA has no regulatory power.

Following Cage Warriors 110 on Saturday, Cork native Boylan expressed some issues he has with working with IMMAA due to Kavanagh being a promoter as well as the president of the proposed governing body.

“There’s a serious conflict of interest when you’ve got a guy that’s a promoter heading up what’s supposed to be a start-up governing body,” Boylan told the gathered media at the Neptune Stadium.

“[Kavanagh] will have the pick of what he wants for his promotion and he can very easily cause problems for other promotions he doesn’t like because he’s president of the governing body. Until that sorts itself out, they need government behind them. If the government is not backing [IMMAA] and it’s not law for me to do what they’re trying to push on us, I won’t be working with them, no.”

Kavanagh responded to Boylan’s claims when contacted by MMA Fighting on Sunday. As far as he’s concerned, once a promotion reaches the medical standards that have been put in place, the person who is president of IMMAA should not matter.

“Even If I’m not the president, Andy Ryan – who is also a promoter – could be in that position,” Kavanagh told MMA Fighting.

“I think the main thing is, we have rules that we have to follow no matter what. If more and more people begin to think that I shouldn’t be in this position, maybe that’s something that IMMAA members can vote on. But again, as far as I’m concerned, once everyone is following the same rules and regulations, that’s all IMMAA is interested in. If a promoter can show that he is being treated differently than any other promoter or another show, then of course, that would be something that would have to be looked in to. However, I don’t think that has been the case.”

Kavanagh also insisted that he would happily stand down from the position once MMA gains recognition nationally, which would grant IMMAA regulatory jurisdiction over the sport in Ireland.

“The day the sport is recognized [in Ireland], I’ll happily leave this position,” said Kavanagh.

“I look forward to the day that my kids, your kids, Owen Roddy’s daughters and Andy Ryan’s daughters can all participate in MMA as a fully recognized sport. I think it’s amazing what the likes of Katie Taylor and Kellie Harrington are doing and it’s great that they’re celebrated nationally for their achievements in boxing, which is a fully recognized sport in Ireland. I look forward to the day when MMA fighters’ achievements will be celebrated in the same fashion on a national level and I think government recognition for MMA will be a big step towards that. But, as I said, when MMA is recognized in Ireland, I’ll happily walk away from the role with IMMAA.”

Kavanagh also highlighted his belief that Cage Warriors staging events in Ireland is good for the national scene and wished the promotion well with their plans to return to the country in 2020.

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