KSW’s Martin Lewandowski and MMA Polska Association set to reinvigorate Polish Amateur MMA scene
Mixed martial arts is thriving in Poland.
Over the last 15 years, Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki, better known by its initials, KSW, has almost single-handedly morphed MMA into an insanely popular, nationally televised product, watched by millions in native Poland alone.
Under the leadership of Martin Lewandowski and Maciej Kawulski, KSW has built an empire which is arguably un-rivalled in Europe and it’s pretty difficult to argue that fact, considering the promotion were able to pack 58,000 fans into their national football stadium — The PGE Narodowy — back in May, 2017.
As KSW; and subsequently the professional MMA sport, continues to flourish, there becomes a growing need for properly orchestrated development at grassroots level. Alas, Lewandowski sees the necessity to build the future crop of Polish MMA fighters and create a proper breeding ground for developing athletes through the newly formed MMA Polska Association, a national governing body for MMA.
Even though there has been an ‘Amateur’ presence for Poland in the past; under the Chairmanship of Mirosław Okniński, the previous governing body — Polska Federacja MMA (PLMMA) — failed to galvanise support from clubs and key sporting stakeholders.
There’s no smoke without fire, though, and despite being afforded multiple opportunities by IMMAF – WMMAA to step-up their game and broaden the development of athletes, coaches and technical officials, the PFMMA (also known previously as PLMMAF and PZMMA) were unable to rally.
In fact, the demise of Okniński’s amateur federation has been on the table for quite some time; even as far back as 2015. It was at the 2015 IMMAF European Championship Open where Okniński sent a full team of Polish amateurs to compete in Birmingham, England. It would transpire, however, that the Polish federation had not taken the correct measures to ensure their athletes were medically fit to compete, and thus they were disqualified from the tournament.
It was hoped within IMMAF – WMMAA, that the stern stance against the Polish federation would lead to improvements, from a governing and medical stand-point. This never happened.
Highly touted prospect, Eryk Walecki, even travelled on his own to compete at the 2018 IMMAF – WMMAA European Open Championships last year in Bucharest, Romania, attending without coaches of national representatives. Walecki went on to win the Jr featherweight gold medal at the event, with the guidance of the Swedish National Team coaches.
Internally, those involved with the PFMMA had also become aware about their diminishing position on the international amateur MMA scene, and two strong characters, Pawel Harasim and Kondrad Plaza tried themselves to reinvigorate the federation. Despite their efforts and realising the enormity of the task to reverse years of mismanagement by Okniński, they were unable to rebuild.
After years of apparent negligence, things finally came to a head for the PFMMA in December, 2018, when they tried to align with the Polish Federation of Kickboxing. This forced IMMAF – WMMAA to reconsider their membership, with the feeling that due to Poland’s strong MMA scene, the sport should be governed by a body independent of other combat sports. The federation was officially suspended in April, 2019.
This of course, paved the way for KSW front-man, Lewandowski to step-up with MMA Polska Association. The highly influential Lewandowski will serve as President, and will use his vast experience to develop the education, training and safeguarding of young people, competitors, technical officials and coaches in MMA, whilst helping build the amateur sport with the future goal of seeing MMA into the Olympic Games.
Some may criticise Lewandowski, considering all of his experience comes from the pro ranks, however, with ongoing discussions with Slawomir Cypel — who heads up Amatorska Liga MMA (ALMMA) — there is great hopes that a full amateur calendar will be organised for 2020.
Impressively, Lewandowski has also received support from the Minister of Sport, Witold Bańka.
Now, Lewandowski and the MMA Polska Association turn their attention to the next major event on the international amateur MMA calendar, the IMMAF – WMMAA World Championships, which take place in Bahrain in November.
For years, Polish athletes have had to self-fund to compete at international tournaments, but Lewandowski has vowed to help support athletes and help them gain media exposure to attract sponsorships which can cover the costs of competing.
After many years of hurt for Amateur MMA in Poland, it seems that finally now, there is an opportunity to write the wrong of previous iterations, building the grassroots of MMA in a way it deserves and merits; through total legitimacy.