Legalizing MMA in Canada: Every great movement experiences 3 stages: ridicule, discussion, adoption

 ~  This is one of the best articles I've uncovered that outlines many of the complex issues of MMA breaking into virgin markets. This article is Canada specific but addresses several layers of the direct and indirect benefit(s) in sanctioning MMA anywhere, let alone Canada.  It's a tremendous read and I hope ManiaNation enjoys it as much as I did ~ BZ  ( I am not the author.. see props under the pic)


Although, MMA is an aggressive sport and deemed barbaric by proponents of banning it, it is a relatively safe sport when compared to many other sports. MMA is based on ancient and modern fighting systems and philosophy. In Canada, criminal law is set by the federal government through the Criminal Code and each provincial government is able to interpret the law as they see fit. Manitoba, Alberta, Quebec, and Nova Scotia have all allowed MMA events. The city council in Vancouver, British Columbia (BC) has approved MMA competitions on a two-year trial basis by a vote of 6-3. For the first time in BC, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) was allowed to organize MMA fights in Vancouver on June 12, 2010. Although, the UFC began showing fights in 1993, Vancouver would be just the second Canadian city after Montreal to host a MMA event like the UFC. The UFC reported the Vancouver event set a new record for the fastest sellout in history, selling out just thirty minutes after the ticket pre-sale started.


Props: MMA Maxim via MMA 

 Shortly thereafter UFC President Dana White thanked Vancouver’s Mayor. Maybe former math teacher, Rich "Ace" Franklin who beat Chuck "Iceman" Liddell in Vancouver on June 12, 2010, can teach politicians how logical MMA is. MMA matches have been held in Japan since the 1970s and Brazil’s Vale Tudo (which roughly translates to "anything goes" in martial arts) since the 1920s. It was in the 1920s in Brazil when George Gracie defeated Tico Soledade.  MMA continues to thrive in both these countries today. Japan has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world. In contrast, Brazil's biggest cities with millions of people struggle with very high violent crime rates due to abject poverty not because of a love of MMA. We have spent over three weeks in Brazil and we have Brazilian friends who attest to this fact.

 The UFC has implemented many safeguards (such as weight classes, padded gloves) since the 1st UFC held in Denver, CO in 1993.  On June 20, 2010, World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) held a fight in Canada for the first time with a competition in Edmonton. WEC uses approved 4-6 oz gloves and has 31 designated fouls and many rules. Unlike these other major markets for MMA in Canada, provinces like Ontario are rigidly adhering to Section 83 of Canada’s Criminal Code to ban MMA. This Section defines a "prize fight" as a "…fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them…." There are exceptions in the Section that are not considered "prize fights" stating, "…a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass, or any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province…." (emphasis added).

 Ontario's recent decision to allow MMA should influence other jurisdictions in Canada to allow such regulated competitions for several reasons. First, MMA competitions such as the UFC generate colossal amounts of money that benefit local and global businesses hard hit by the economic downturn. Hotels, restaurants, bars, airlines, and car rental agencies are just a few of the businesses that would benefit. The UFC has estimated that bouts in Ontario could generate $4 million in tax revenues annually for the cash-strapped provincial treasury.

 Second, the law is overbroad and unreasonably vague making it hard to comply with the law. It punishes not only the fighters (who engage as a principal in a prize fight) but anyone who advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight, or is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter. Would a fighter’s manager in another country, who unknowingly advises an athlete who will be fighting in Ontario, be in violation of the overbroad and vague law? Presumably yes. There is no merit in penalizing surgeons from being present at fights when the purported purpose of banning MMA is to protect fighters. You can easily punish fighters without punishing medical professionals who are present to help fighters in the event of an injury.  In sharp contrast to the law, medical professionals should be rewarded for being present even if a jurisdiction does not allow MMA because they are innocent parties trying to help people.  

 Ontario’s Premier Dalton McGuinty was quoted by the Toronto Star Newspaper on December 23, 2009 as stating "I'd want to hear from everybody – from police. Are these kinds of events taking place now in an unsupervised way? I'd want to hear from medical officials."

 Third, other sports and events which are just as dangerous if not more dangerous are allowed. More athletes died rowing in 1982-83 and 2008-09 than in all MMA events at all levels in North America from 1993-August 17, 2010.  See The National Center for Catastrophic Injury 2009 Research Study at the University of North Carolina  Yes, I will admit that does sound strange.  This is why further study and technology to protect the fighters is the answer not accusations without study.

 The law allows boxing if boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass and judo, tae kwon do, karate, kick boxing, and wrestling are all allowed. There are many sports and activities which are allowed that are clearly more dangerous (from a statistical risk assessment) and many would argue have similar social utility: boxing, football, rugby, hang-gliding, luge, downhill skiing, motorcycle and car racing. Many boxers have died and been injured and yet boxing is still rightfully legal.  The story of the traggic death of Korean boxer Duk Koo Kim after fighting Ray "Boom Boom" Mancini is shown below.

 Mancini and Kim met in an arena outside Caesar's Palace on November 13, 1982.  In what many ringside observers described as an "action-packed" fight, Mancini and Duk Koo Kim were equal for a good portion of the early rounds.  However, by the latter rounds, Mancini began to dominate Duk Koo Kim. Spent and battered, Duk Koo Kim went into round 14 with little left and Mancini dropped him.  He got up, but the fight was stopped and Mancini retained the title.

 Minutes after the fight was over, Duk Koo Kim collapsed into a coma, and was taken to a hospital. Emergency brain surgery was done there to try to save his life, but that effort proved to be futile, as he died five days after the bout, on November 18, 1982.   The week after, the magazine Sports Illustrated had a photo of the fight on their cover, under the heading Tragedy in The Ring. To add to the tragedy, Duk Koo Kim's mother and the referree also committed suicide after his tragic death.

 Boxing was not banned after this death or after any other death from a fight.  Many reforms in boxing took place as a result of this death. The World Boxing Council (WBC), even though not the sanctioning organization in this fight, was the first one to add  many new rules concerning a fighter's medical care before fights at their annual convention in 1982.  WBC president Jose Sulaiman declared that, immediately after the Mancini-Kim bout, the WBC and their medical advisors had conducted a study that revealed that most fighters get injured more severely after round thirteen.  Thus, the organization immediately decided to reduce the number of rounds in their championship bouts from fifteen to twelve.  The World Boxing Association (WBA) and the International Boxing Federation (IBF) followed the WBC in 1987.  When the World Boxing Organization (WBO) was formed in 1988, they implemented a twelve (12) round world championship bouts.

 Apart from the round reduction, more comprehensive safeguards would be adopted like electrocardiograms, brain tests, lung tests, and other medical tests from just a blood pressure and heartbeat check before 1982.

 Thus, we must continually study how to better protect MMA fighters and be proactive to avoid harm to the athletes and not wait for tragedy like the regulators of boxing.

 The rules of MMA work and additional safeguards should be studied and implemented.  There are no more serious injuries in MMA than in these other sports. Should the Olympic sport of luge be banned because an athlete died during a training session in Vancouver for the 2010 Winter Olympics? Of course not! Better safety precautions need to be studied and implemented like the Olympic Committee adopted after that luge accident. Yes, injuries happen but through study and technology the fighters can be protected better just like the early days of hockey. Additional safety precautions should be assessed when necessary such as better padding on gloves to prevent hand injuries. Therefore, it is illogical that it is illegal when a sport has an interdisciplinary integration of a kickboxing, judo, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, and other forms of martial arts with the right safety precautions.

 In addition, fighting is not usually penalized in sports such as hockey and basketball.  Watch any professional hockey game today and observe how the referrees of the National Hockey League fail to stop the fighting in hockey.

 Fourth, banning MMA encourages underground fights which are not regulated by official athletic commissions or associations and thereby increase the likelihood that fighters will be injured. Imagine underground fights like in the movie "Fight Club" which have less protection for fighters and staff than organized events like the ones held by the UFC, WEC, Bellator Fighting Championshiop, Pride FC, and Strikeforce with medical doctors present. Ontario’s Premier was also quoted by the Toronto Star Newspaper on December 23, 2009, stating "It's not the kind of thing I'd want to drive underground, in other words. So I'd want to bring a thoughtful approach to this."

 Commissioner Ken Hayashi of the Ontario Athletic Commission (OAC) stated back in 2007 that there are an increasing number of MMA events taking place on Indian Reservations in Ontario: "Those guys are taking a big chance with putting on these shows. If someone gets seriously hurt there will be serious liability issues for those connected with the event and it will set the sport back several years in Ontario. Especially if it’s found that they’ve not done the due diligence that other professional athletic commissions are doing." Commissioner Hayashi explained that medical testing such as CAT scans, EEGs, and full blood work (Hep B, Hep C and HIV), are required by most provincial commissions in Canada.

 In 2006, a MMA event was held on the Oneida First Nation Indian Reserve just outside of London, Ontario. The Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) admitted that MMA competitions are a grey area under the law. At the time OPP Constable Doug Graham stated, "We will conduct an investigation and determine whether this event fits the definition of a prize fight and whether it would be in the public’s interest to prosecute. It’s a strange situation; we’ve never been faced with something like this."

 On April 26, 2007, Ohsweken Reserve –an Iroquois Indian reserve held the third Iroquois Mixed Martial Arts Championships (IMMAC), aka Rumble On The Rez (Reservation). An Ontario Provincial Police roadblock on the main highway was forcing fans to take a lengthy detour, which might explain why attendance is down slightly for this event, about 1,500 compared to the 2,000-plus who came out to the first two Rumble On The Rez fights in November and February.

 On Satuday, July 10, 2010, an Iroquois Indian reserve held their Iroquois MMA Championships #8, entitled "The Comeback." Banning MMA pushes it underground to these less regulated venues to "comeback" again and again.  Protecting the fighters is the very laudable goal these jurisdictions have used to justify these laws so allowing MMA and thereby preventing an underground fighting network will achieve this goal more effectively than an absolute ban.


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