Rory MacDonald (top) punches Che Mills during their welterweight bout for UFC 145.
Photograph by: Kevin C. Cox, Getty Images
By Dave Deibert, The StarPhoenix; With Files From Postmedia News
May 9, 2012 10:40 AM
The British Columbia government introduced legislation this week to regulate mixed martial arts - which includes Ultimate Fighting Championship - and other combat sports across the province.
Ida Chong, B.C.'s minister of community, sport and cultural development, introduced Bill 50 - the Athletic Commissioner Act - in the legislature on Monday. She said the proposed act would establish a "consistent framework" for professional MMA, kickboxing and boxing events in B.C.
"The benefit of having a provincial athletic commissioner would be that every professional contest would be subject to the same rules and regulations, whether it was being held in Vancouver, Nanaimo or Vernon," Chong said.
The bill would regulate such issues as taxes and fees, participant safety and medical care, and ensuring events take place under unified rules.
"Since sports such as kickboxing and mixed martial arts are very popular and are taking place without a consistent regulatory framework, it makes sense to be proactive about creating this position to increase the safety of athletes and officials, as well as to provide certainty for communities and the industry," Chong said.
Vancouver Athletic Commission member and lawyer Jonathan Tweedale was pleased the province is moving forward with such a bill.
"It's been a long time coming," he said.
"This is a great development for MMA in the province. The ones who will benefit the most will be the fighters themselves, who will be protected by better - and more consistent - regulation."
UFC has previously held pay-per-views in Vancouver in 2010 and 2011, but did not return this year after a two-year trial period for MMA sanctioning in B.C. came to an end.
Darren Owen, president of Armageddon Fighting Championship, applauded the move.
"I think it will deter some of the companies that try to fly under the radar and aren't doing things the right way," he said.
"There's definitely a lot of guys out there that aren't doing things the right way. It gives the sport a really bad name and it's unsafe. This will take the sport to the next level."
Owen added he thinks the move will also be what it takes to attract big matches to British Columbia.
"The UFC is obviously the big leagues. They have stopped coming to Vancouver because this hasn't been sorted out," he said.
"Now, with this in place, I definitely foresee the UFC coming back and bringing millions of dollars to the province of B.C."
While the bill would regulate combat sports throughout B.C., if local governments do not want such events taking place in their jurisdictions, they would be able to prohibit them by passing a bylaw, the government said.
If the bill is passed, a commissioner would be put in place to oversee the sports. The commissioner would focus on consistent standards of qualifications and safety for athletes and officials, ensure compliance with the proposed act and its regulations and would have the authority to suspend or cancel permits.
There are nine local athletics commissions in place across the province. Once the legislation is passed, the province will repeal all the local authorities, and replace them with a new provincial one.
"You don't want two sets of rules," Chong said.
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