The old notion in Forest Lake was that organized fighting events would lead to brawling in the streets.
The new notion, as the City Council decided last week, was to repeal a city ordinance that forbade ultimate fighting.
"It was not really a difficult decision," said Mayor Chris Johnson. "There seems to be a pretty strong oversight on these kinds of events now."
Forest Lake, like other cities around the metro area, instituted the ban at a time when ultimate fighting was on the upswing. What's changed, Johnson said, is that the Minnesota Combative Sports Commission now regulates ultimate fighting.
The issue reappeared in Forest Lake earlier this month when American Legion Post 225 wanted to host a mixed martial arts event. But because of the city ordinance, the fight was moved to Wyoming, Minn., costing the Legion more than $5,000 in losses, said spokesman Tony Larson.
Larson, a vice commander at the post, said ultimate fighting is no longer considered brawling but "a highly regulated contact sport." The ordinance change, he said, means the Legion will host a fighting event sometime this summer.
"The City Council was very cooperative. They looked at the state sanctioning and said this makes sense," he said.
RD Brown, the sports commission's executive director, said fighters' safety is paramount and most cities, once they know about the commission's regulations, don't have a problem with ultimate fighting.
"We don't want to bump heads with any municipalities," he said.
The commission licenses fighters and requires one- or two-month suspensions when they suffer knockouts or other significant injuries. Some fighters have been suspended indefinitely for disciplinary reasons, such as missing scheduled fights or failing to maintain safe levels of physical conditioning.
The Forest Lake ban apparently grew from concern for "fights spilling out in the parking lots" among supporters, said Johnson, who became the city's mayor in January. But last week, the five-member City Council voted unanimously to repeal the ordinance.
"It got a surprisingly large amount of attention," he said. "We looked into and repealed it and that was kind of the end of it."
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