Aussie territory seeks to drive unsavory elements from MMA via regulation
Historically, there have often been ties between organized crime elements and combat sports. OC involvement in and historical control of boxing in the USA is the stuff of legend, and reality. Amsterdam has repeatedly sought to drive OC elements out of kickboxing events. And when Yakuza ownership of PRIDE FC became public, it was forced off television, and came close to killing MMA in Japan. That pattern in Japan was a repeat of OC control of kickboxing being exposed and killing the thriving 70s scene.
Now the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) is seeking to further regulate combat sports, with an eye towards driving out Outlaw Biker gang involvement, among other goals. The move is driven in part by the ACT branch of the Australian Medical Association (AMA), which opposes combat sports, while acknowledging that banning MMA would only drive it underground, and place participants at far more risk.
Combat sports in the ACT are still regulated under the 1993 Boxing Control Act, and the ACT Government is looking to update the legislation later this year. The new rules are broad, including:
•Mandatory pre-fight and post-fight medical examinations of fighters;
•Banning weapons in the ring; and,
•Removing any organized crime influence upon the sport, particularly bikie gangs, through “suitability assessments” of participants seeking licensing.
“We’re not trying to be wowsers or anything like that,” said Professor Steve Robson, President of AMA’s ACT Branch. “But I think it’s an important opportunity that the ACT Government could embrace, to say ‘well how can we set a community standard that sends a message?’
“Interpersonal violence isn’t a thing to be celebrated or to profit from. Having the whole aim of the thing to bash someone senseless — I don’t think many doctors would support that.”
Dr. Robson was quick to make the distinction between combat sports like MMA and collision sports like Australian Rules football, which are wildly popular Downunder. Despite Australian Rules football causing thousands of hospitalizations each year in Australia, to hundreds for all of combat sports combined, and a death rate of many to 0, the good doctor sees a difference.
“If people are hurt, yeah that’s a risk of the sport — but it’s not the primary objective of what everybody is doing on the field,” he said.
Pro fighter Duke Didier said MMA was growing rapidly in Canberra, and efforts to adequately regulate the sport were welcome and overdue.
“It’s sort of been the wild west in Canberra,” he said. “All the other states have regulations, and Canberra has been a bit behind the eight-ball. So it’s great that they’re finally recognizing mixed martial arts as the sport that it is, and regulating it. Canberra has a booming fight scene, it’s definitely growing and growing — every day, every week,” he said.
Jenny Priest, Director of Active Canberra, said the government was confident MMA could be regulated and made safe.
“To ban sports, whatever sport it might be, you then have the risk of unregulated and potentially illegal activity popping up around the place,” she said. “Where you can ensure that the sport can be conducted safely, which is what we’re focusing on, then that’s got to be a good thing.
“There are risks in a whole range of different sports, but I think to just say well you should ban them — is not always the way to deal with it. There is good that can come from combat sport, but it needs to be properly regulated. And there needs to be provision to ensure that any unsavory elements, or poor levels of integrity that could manifest in the sport, are addressed through good regulation.”