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Teenage refugee breaks jaw during illegal MMA fight in Germany

An Afghan refugee completed in an MMA fight despite not meeting the minimum age requirement and suffered a broken jaw as a consequence. 

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Berliners and visitors express solidarity to the victims after the attack in Berlin Photo by Emmanuele Contini/NurPhoto via Getty Images

On December 12, 2016, a young Afghan refugee stepped into a scheduled fight against Russia’s Rustam Yusopov during a ‘We Love MMA’ event in Berlin. Despite not meeting the minimum age requirement to compete in mixed martial arts in Germany (18+), the 16-year-old Moustafa eventually stepped into the cage and suffered a severely broken jaw for his efforts.

According to reports, it was Moustafa and his coach who remained quiet about the fighter’s age ahead of the fight. It was only when the Afghan showed his passport before heading to the hospital that it became clear that he was a minor who had illegally participated in a sanctioned MMA fight. Had his own coach followed regulations, Moustafa would currently be in school instead of nursing a painful injury that severely limited his speech.

The incident, which spread like wildfire across German sports media, raised various difficult questions, including whether the promotion responsible for hosting the fight had completed the pre-fight requisites without gross negligence. Reports later confirmed that Moustafa had selected 15 May 1998 as his birth date on the medical examination sheet, which would have met the minimum requirements. The promotion did not bother to confirm his information.

Another concern was why the promotion didn’t question Moustafa for being in Berlin instead of Siegen, the city that has guardianship over him. Given that he is a minor, he was required to have permission and explicit consent to compete in violent sports or leave the city. That coupled with document falsification could possibly lead to criminal charges.

This incident highlights a much more concerning issue with German MMA. German law explicitly prohibits participation in MMA prior to the age of 18. However, the sport is yet to have an official regulatory body. While there is the the German Mixed Martial Arts Federation (GMMAF), it is yet to receive the necessary recognition. Without a unified set of standards and practices, such scandals will continue to creep into the industry.

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