I can only hope that someday I could experience what a fighter from the United States, the Canadian East coast, Alberta, Manitoba, or Quebec experiences when they walk down the to the ring. It would be a real thrill to be the hometown hero… to fight near to the people you care about. However, the view of this dream is clouded by a thick haze of politics, ignorance, and fear of the unknown. In Ontario, the combat sport community has grown to live in fear of Section 83 of the criminal code, and the athletic commissioner that so adamantly defends it. MMA has been statistically proven to be safer than most pugilistic sports, but still the powers that be in our province choose to ignore facts and lobby against this amazing sport. A committee was chosen and attempted to be pioneers at making an amateur sanctioning body for MMA in this province, the OMMAA, in an effort to prove its safety and hopefully clear the path for professional MMA in the hopefully not so distant future. On May 3, 2006, the Ontario Mixed Martial Arts Association (OMMAA) received a letter from the Ministry of Government Services explaining why professional MMA was not permitted in the province.
“They came up with 3 reasons as to why MMA should not be sanctioned in Ontario. They’re uncomfortable with the aspects of choking, the open fingered gloves, and ground and pound,” said Marco Antico, an employee of TKOMMA, an MMA columnist, and familiar name to all those involved in the struggle to have MMA legalized in this province and founder of the OMMAA and www.canadianmma.com. “Their opinion is not based on facts or safety records, but the perception and ideology of a few people within the government.”
I don’t get it.
Is it just me or does this seem a little odd in a Province where people cheer as teenagers bludgeon each other to a pulp bare knuckle while balancing on skates? Judo allows chokes, don’t they? Pro boxing is sanctioned in Ontario and the sport related injury statistical comparisons of that specific sport compared to MMA is well documented.
The bottom line, though, is that in this situation everyone is losing. The fighters are losing the opportunity to showcase their skills in front of loved ones and fans, not to mention the financial gains found in purses and sponsorships. Not stepping off a cramped plane the day before weigh in would be amazing too! It’s not a secret that out of town fighters are usually brought in to lose and this is a factor as well. The coaches are missing out on the chance to promote their schools and their training systems locally. The athletic commission loses membership and sanctioning fees, and is rapidly becoming an entity that is scorned by the legions of combat sport fans in Ontario. As the masses education on the subject grows, so does the contempt felt for a government that will deny them immediate access to the sport they love. Promoters, sponsors, event staff, venue staff, municipalities… they all lose. Think of all the revenue that major MMA shows can generate. Imagine a UFC in Toronto? They would sell out the Air Canada Centre in the first hour, just like Montreal. 19,800 people would be there for the weekend spending and injecting the economy with income. Which brings to light the biggest losers: the fans. Not everyone can pick up and travel to another province or to the states. Everyone who wants to should be able to watch MMA live, whether it is at the ACC, or in a small town hockey arena in Stratford, an outdoor event at Lansdowne in Ottawa, or maybe the John Labatt Centre in London.
I am not here to try and solve this problem – I am not even going to attempt to. I’ll give an opinion, but in a province with a Sport ministry run by lawyers and doctors instead of people actually involved in sport, the voice of Jeff Harrison, a fighter/trainer will probably just be over looked. But who knows? Maybe someone who is reading this can do something to make a difference.
I know I’m willing to do what I can for this cause…. I’ll get in the ring and fight. What will you do?