Posted Dec 17, 2009, 3:43 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Looks like MMA is coming:
Vancouver city council to approve regulated MMA Thursday morning
By Chris Parry 17 Dec 2009 Ground and Pound
Filed under: UFC, Gregor Robertson, David Cadman, Heather Deal, Vancouver Athletic Commission, Kerry Jang, Suzanne Anton, Ellen Woodsworth, Vancouver city council, Geoff Meggs
I've been working the backrooms like a madman this past 24 hours, trying to confirm which direction Vancouver City Council is likely to go on the issue of mixed martial arts Thursday morning, and from everything I've been told, MMA regulation is a lock.
City staff have submitted their report on the issue of MMA, and the document is not just surprisingly welcoming to the sport, it's actually stunning in its clarity, research, and detail.
In fact, this report is so well put together, addressing every popular misconception on MMA in clear language with numerous sources, that it could be used as a blueprint for any other city wondering whether mixed martial arts should be regulated - and how that regulation should occur.
The important stuff:
A. THAT Council authorize the Vancouver Athletic Commission to sanction Mixed Martial Arts events as outlined in this report on a two-year pilot basis with a report back in early 2012 on experience with the pilot;
B. THAT promoters and organizers and venue owners of sanctioned Mixed Martial Arts events under the pilot program be required to provide indemnification in favour of the City and the Commission and also provide financial security (by way of a bond, letter of credit or other instrument), all in a form and in an amount and on terms and conditions satisfactory to the City Manager, the Director of Legal Services, the Director of Finance and Risk Management , to ensure protection for the City and the Commission;
C. THAT the Mayor, on behalf of Council, write to the Solicitor General and Attorney General of B.C. and to the Federal Justice Minister to request urgent clarification of the legal framework for the regulation of Mixed Martial Arts;
D. THAT current procedural requirements of the Vancouver Athletic Commission with respect to combat sports be revised, as noted in this report, in the areas of medical procedures and testing, sanctioning of Pro-Am events, security plans, and the retention of a qualified emergency physician for each event and that staff work with the Vancouver Athletic Commission to document the implementation of these requirements;
E. THAT Council approve an increase to the seat tax charged by the Vancouver Athletic Commission from $0.10/seat to $1.00/seat for every contest or exhibition, to go towards the administrative costs and expenses of the Vancouver Athletic Commission and support staff involved;
F. THAT staff assess the requirement for expanded skill sets amongst Vancouver Athletic Commission members in accordance with their expanded responsibilities for regulation of Mixed Martial Arts on a pilot basis; AND
G. THAT the Director of Legal Services be instructed to bring forward for Council approval any necessary amendments to the Vancouver Athletic Commission By-law No. 2875 to reflect the direction of Council in respect of Council’s determinations pursuant to the foregoing.
The report is clear - MMA should be regulated in Vancouver, it's less dangerous than boxing and other impact sports, it has unified standardized rules that most athletic commissions follow (The NJ/NV unified rules of MMA), there's been no record of crowd violence anywhere that MMA is regulated, and the financial benefit to the city will be between 800k and $4m for a single event at GM Place.
In fact, there's really no way anyone can read this document and come away justifying a stance that MMA shouldn't be regulated. It's clear - anything bad associated with the sport comes when you DON'T regulate.
That said, two councillors remain opposed to the regulation of MMA locally: COPE councillors David Cadman and Ellen Woodsworth.
Cadman will not factor into the vote, however, as he's disappeared off to Copenhagen, where his clear expertise on all things environmental will surely help world leaders come to agreement on climate change. Added bonus for him: He won't have to face the hordes of MMA fans, industry people, trainers and fighters who have had it up to here with his characterization of them as gang members and out-of-control drunks.
That leaves Woodsworth more or less isolated.
Geoff Meggs is no MMA fan, but he's a Vision man and Mayor Gregor Robertson is in the bag for local MMA, according to what I'm told by city employees and MMA industry insiders, so Meggs will go along with the crowd. NPA councillor Suzanne Anton was the first one on the bandwagon, so her vote is assured. Ditto Vision's Heather Deal and Kerry Jang, both of whom attended and enjoyed the Honour Combat Championships event at the Edgewater Casino on Nov. 27.
As for Woodsworth, I'm told she's feverishly working behind the scenes trying to find medical experts to back her thoughts that MMA is horrifically dangerous and will result in long term injuries of fighters. Unfortunately for Woodsworth, there's simply no evidence to point out anything of the sort. The best she'll be able to do on that front is put forth the "evidence isn't yet in" defense, but since MMA is only 15 years old in its current form, the only way to get such evidence is to allow the sport to happen and watch it closely.
City staff are recommending that MMA be regulated on a temporary basis for the next two years. That would allow the UFC to put on an event at GM Place in June 2010 as planned, and would likely see a host of local promotions on a near-monthly basis. Promoters from across the Rockies, most specifically Maximum Fighting Championships man about town Mark Pavelich, will almost definitely battle the locals for prime venue space from the outset, and locals are looking hard at alternate venues in expectation of that coming battle.
West Coast Promotions, the team that normally puts boxing events on at the River Rock Casino, has hired local MMA expert Paul Lazenby to organize future amateur MMA events in Richmond, if the local boxing commission can be jawboned into approving such things, while the North Vancouver-based North American Championship promotion is gearing up for a return to professional events, with the local council already having given MMA the nod out there.
As reported Thursday on The Sun website, Victoria is going through a review of its own stance on MMA, and having talked to the head of the department responsible, I'm fairly certain the Vancouver staff report will make that review far easier to complete. Promotions in Nanaimo, Prince George, Colwood, Penticton and Vernon continue to surge in popularity.
More choice bits from the city report:
On injury risk:
Injury rates in MMA competitions have been examined in several studies. The most extensive of these is a 2008 study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine that examined injuries to fighters in sanctioned bouts in Nevada State between 2002 and 2007. That study concluded that injury rates in regulated professional MMA competitions are similar to rates in other combat sports and that the overall risk of critical sports-related injury appears low. The report notes that a majority of MMA sanctioned bouts end via decision or submission (surrender of one fighter). This is thought to help explain the lower incidence of knockouts in MMA compared to boxing [Bledsoe et al, 2005]. A comparison of injury rates in MMA and boxing is shown in Table 1.
Table 1: Injury Statistics MMA vs. Boxing
Injury Statistics: MMA compared to Boxing
Overall injuries per 100 fight exposures: MMA 23.6, boxing 17.1 to 25
Concussion rate per 100 fight exposures: MMA 1.65, boxing 5.6
% fight ends in knockouts: MMA 3.3%, boxing 11.3%
Source: Injury Trends in Sanctioned Mixed Martial Arts Competition: A Five-Year Review 2002-2007, British Journal of Sports Medicine
On crowd violence:
The Vancouver Police Department note that there have been no significant policing issues to date when MMA events are run professionally and a security plan with policing recommendations is in place. However, if there is no regulatory framework in place, the Police Department would be concerned that the increasing popularity of MMA may result in some promoters holding contests underground where no controlling force would be in place to monitor these events.
Staff from the City of Montreal report that the UFC event that took place at the Montreal Bell Center in April 2009 did not pose any significant problems (violence, criminal activity, etc.). The Police support that was offered for the event was the same as for any event being held at the same venue (concert, hockey game, etc.) and consisted of 8 police officers, assigned to close the streets around the Bell Center, control traffic and ensure the safety of all the spectators exiting the Center. Police also focussed on ticket scalpers prior to the game.
Police from the City of Calgary report few issues with MMA events there. Their “King of the Cage” contests draw crowds of approximately 1000 people and 1 sergeant and 6 constables are assigned to each of these events. According to the police, there are fewer police-related incidents at these events than at concerts. When MMA events started, there was a noticeable presence of some known gang members, but the continued police presence has all but removed them.
On financial impact:
For a large event at GM Place, the total incremental spending in Metro Vancouver is likely to be around $1.5 million (range of $0.8M to $4.7M depending on out-of-town visits and overnight stays). The UFC is planning to stage an event in Vancouver in 2010 subject to Council approval of MMA. It is likely that other smaller events will take place in Vancouver, generating further economic benefits.
Examining the experience of other jurisdictions and studies with respect to MMA, it is evident that there are both risks and benefits to allowing this combat sport in Vancouver. It is a sport that has grown tremendously in popularity in North America, and one that has the potential to bring economic benefits to Vancouver. A number of jurisdictions in Canada have allowed MMA and have experienced few problems with crowd and security issues. Based on this review, staff recommend that Council authorize the Vancouver Athletic Commission to sanction mixed martial arts events on a pilot basis for two years with a report back on the experience with this sport. In order to mitigate risk of injury to fighters and crowd control issues, staff are also recommending changes be made to the Commission’s regulations with respect to combat sports. Staff are recommending that the required skill sets of the Vancouver Athletic Commission be reviewed quickly to ensure the Commission is able to meet its current and future mandates, including MMA.
To read the full report, click here.
Source: Vancouver Sun