Vancouver a Go for Future MMA Events, With Caveats
Legalization of MMA in the Canadian market remains a touchy subject for many promotions. In areas like Ontario, the process remains deadlocked whereas in other provinces like British Columbia, MMA is on a trial period with many issues regarding sanctioning yet to work themselves out. By looking at the perspective of the Vancouver city council’s decision to allow a landmark UFC on June 12, we can better understand both how Mixed Martial Arts is perceived by decision makers, and what needs to be done to move the sport further along in states or provinces where MMA is banned.
In December of 2009, the Vancouver city council voted 6-3 in favor of allowing MMA events in the city, albeit only for a two-year trial period. Councilor Kerry Jang made himself available to discuss the move, along with media reports from The Toronto Sun and Rogers Sportsnet which speculated that the Vancouver UFC would be a one-time deal.
“MMA had an interest to me because there are blows to the head,” explained Jang, who is a professor of Psychology at the University of British Columbia who teaches areas like neuroscience, mental illnesses and brain physiology. “Any blow to the head—depending on where it is, the angles, the strength and force of impacts behind it—can cause no damage, or in some cases, quite severe damage.”
Two years ago, Jang never would have considered sanctioning MMA because he believed MMA was a very wild, uncontrolled and underground activity.
“We heard about the amateur bouts, or the so-called ‘illegal bouts,’ that were going on in Vancouver, and they seemed pretty vicious. There was a lot of bare knuckle brawling at that time, it seemed quite violent.”
What helped convince Jang to vote in favor of legalizing the sport in his municipality was the institution of rules to make it a sport. However, the councilor repeated an often publicized myth that MMA has only recently been civilized by weight classes, rounds, and rules. Since the early beginnings of MMA, promotions have been trying to make events safe for all participants.
According to Jonathan Snowden’s book Total MMA: Inside Ultimate Fighting, almost all of the current rules of the Zuffa-owned organization were in place back in 2000 at UFC 28, sanctioned under the ‘Unified Rules’ in New Jersey. Referees were given the power to stop fights back at UFC 3; weight classes were instituted at UFC 12; head butts, kicks to a downed opponent and strikes to the back of the head were banned at UFC 15 and five minute rounds were implemented at UFC 21. UFC 28 was the last show to be run by the Semaphore Entertainment Group (SEG); after this event, Zuffa took the organization over.