Chicago suburb backs down from MMA ban

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

While mixed martial arts is regulated at the Federal level in Canada, and is legal in every state in the USA besides New York, problems still occasionaly crop up at the municipal level.

Last month, in the Chicago suburb of Naperville, IL, city councilmen tried to ban MMA from their town. However, they are now backing down from that stance, and instead trying to regulate it through liquor laws and special event licensing.

Marie Wilson from the Naperville Daily Herald has the story.

Restricting the fights would address concerns about the violent nature of the sport, traffic control and the service of alcohol at high-energy, nighttime events that could get crowds riled up, said Kristen Foley, senior assistant city attorney.

“We can control the time, place and manner in which an event like this comes through our town,” Councilman David Wentz said. “If we look at it and say ‘How can we take all the potential risks out of it?’ when we go forward to allow it, I think we’ve done our due diligence.”

MMA came to the council’s attention last month when American Predator Fighting Championship was requesting use of a city-owned lot as extra parking for a fight scheduled for Oct. 19. The council denied the parking request and a couple councilmen suggested the events be banned, leading organizers to consolidate the fight with another Saturday in McCook, some 30 mins away.

The council abandoned banning the fights because Foley and the city’s legal team determined municipalities do not have that right under the state’s Boxing and Full-Contact Martial Art Act.

The act requires all MMA participants to be licensed, all athletes to pass medical tests before and after fights and all events to take place near a hospital with a neurosurgical unit. It regulates the fighting area, the spectator area and the equipment, and it says a doctor and emergency medical technician must be present along with an ambulance.

The act specifically overrides home rule, leaving cities across the state powerless to legislate the areas it addresses. Other aspects of MMA events, such as the alcohol sales, age limits and time restrictions Naperville now is considering, are fair game to be controlled by local ordinance.

Once the requirements prohibiting alcohol sales, setting age requirements, mandating police and paramedic presence and limiting the fights to daytime hours are written, they eventually will come back to the city council for approval.

While most councilmen said they favor additional restrictions, Grant Wehrli called them “a solution in search of a problem.”

“Just because I don’t care for the sport,” he said, “doesn’t mean I think we should make it go away.”

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