Canada’s legal definition of prize fighting hasn’t been rewritten in nearly 80 years. With a big push from Ultimate Fighting Championship, a change is seemingly imminent.
Bill S-209, an act to amend the Criminal Code definition of prize fighting, was introduced Thursday into the House of Commons in Ottawa. If passed as expected, the change to Section 83 (2) of the code will expand prize fighting to include not just boxing, but also mixed martial arts, which combines jiu jitsu, wrestling, boxing, Muay Thai, judo and other forms of combat.
Since 1934, under strict interpretation of Section 83 (2), sanctioned boxing has been considered the only legal form of prize fighting, although every province with an athletic commission currently allows MMA. Getting the legal wording in the Criminal Code changed, noted UFC’s top Canadian official, would eliminate any questions or ambiguity.
Tom Wright, UFC director of Canadians operations, was in Ottawa on Thursday, one of countless trips he’s made to the nation’s capital over the past two years. While acknowledging that nothing is yet official, he believes the amendment is well on its way to approval.
“Realistically, the only things guaranteed in life are death, taxes and the Cubs not winning the World Series,” Wright said with a chuckle during an interview from Ottawa.
“We’re very confident that we’ve done our homework. In the end, it’s all about making sure that the sport’s allowed to grow within a consistent regulatory environment to protect the health and safety of the athlete.”
The bill was introduced to the Senate in June and passed through three readings there. Now it must pass through two more readings in the House of Commons before receiving Royal Assent. Wright hopes the second reading will come in as soon as 30 days, but it could be upwards of 45 to 60 days.
From there, the bill will go to a committee for further discussion before returning to the House of Commons for one final debate. Wright hopes the entire issue is wrapped up within three to six months.