Fedor Emelianenko, right, believes IMMAF leadership does not want Russians to return ©Getty Images

MMA Union of Russia President Fedor Emelianenko is expecting the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) to continue its ban on athletes from the country.

Despite the International Olympic Committee (IOC) recommending that federations reinstate individual Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete as neutrals, Emelianenko is worried IMMAF will go against the suggestion.

"We are constantly negotiating the return of Russians to international tournaments," Emelianenko said, as reported by Russia's official state news agency TASS.

"As of today, I would say that the IMMAF has split into those who are for and those who are against.

"The trouble is that the leadership of the federation is inclined to refrain from our return.

"But most [of IMMAF] is still in favour of the return of the Russians."

Following the invasion of Ukraine last February, IMMAF were quick to follow the IOC's initial recommendation of implementing an outright ban on Russia and Belarus.

At the time, IMMAF President Kerrith Brown reluctantly barred the two countries.

Fedor Emelianenko, right, was a former MMA athlete himself winning 40 of 47 professional bouts ©Getty Images
Fedor Emelianenko, right, was a former MMA athlete himself winning 40 of 47 professional bouts ©Getty Images

"It is with sadness that the IMMAF Board has taken this decision as we believe in the power of sport to unite people beyond politics. 

"However, the homeland of our friends and colleagues in the MMA League of Ukraine is under attack and they have been forced from competing in next week’s Super Cup as they take to defending their country.

"We are compelled to unite with global sport in showing solidarity with Ukraine."

The International Federations of athletics, badminton, basketball, equestrian, sport climbing and surfing have all opted to maintain the measures in place since the start of the war in Ukraine.

Meanwhile, 13 Olympic sport International Federations have allowed Russia and Belarus to return with the International Golf Federation being the latest.

Fedor Emelianenko became his organisation's President for the second time in June of last year after he unseated incumbent Radmir Gabdullin at an election in Moscow, regaining the position he held between 2012 and 2018.

He is a former athlete himself, winning 40 of his 47 professional MMA matches, including 16 by knockout and 15 by submission.

insidethegames has contacted IMMAF for comment.