Last weekend Premier Dalton McGuinty approved mixed martial arts (MMA) fights in the Province of Ontario, after years of resisting its introduction. Ontario will be the seventh province in Canada to allow MMA fights.
One of the major obstacles has been a provision in the Criminal Code banning what is termed as "prize fights," with a specific exception for boxing,
Engaging in prize fight
83. (1) Every one who
(a) engages as a principal in a prize fight,
(b) advises, encourages or promotes a prize fight, or
(c) is present at a prize fight as an aid, second, surgeon, umpire, backer or reporter,
is guilty of an offence punishable on summary conviction.
Definition of “prize fight”
(2) In this section, “prize fight” means an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them, but a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass, or any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province, shall be deemed not to be a prize fight.
The Attorney-General of Canada has indicated that he will not interfere with the regulation of the sport.
The reason for the switch in policy appears to be financial, with $6 million of economic activity and 2 per cent of ticket sales going to the province. MMA is a popular sport.
How popular? Popular enough that David Nelmark of Belin McCormick, P.C in Des Moines, Iowa has a Mixed Martial Arts Law Blog. His post on Canadian developments includes a link to a story where the B.C. Medical Association is calling for a complete ban.
Okay, so not popular with everyone. Some are calling for MMA fighters to pay their own medical costs, even though proponents note that injuries are lower than other sports like football or boxing. The "mixed" component in MMA means that participants utilize a variety of techniques including body strikes and joint locks that reduce the incidents of head trauma.
How popular is MMA in Canada among lawyers? I did a quick search using Fee Fie Fo Firm to find out, and this is what I came up with:
- Noble Chummar of Cassels Brock has helped legalize MMA in Ontario
- Matthew Soble of Fogler Rubinoff LLP sits on the Mixed Martial Arts Expo Advisory Board
- Chase Holthe, 2009 student at McInnes Cooper, has experience as a professional fighter
- Donna Seale has indicated she's a fan
- Jamie Thornback of CFM Lawyers trains in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu (BJJ is one of the main forms used in MMA)
- Barbara Zeller of Digby, Leigh & Company also trains in BJJ
The real enthusiast award goes to Oneal Banerjee of Reisler Franklin LLP, who trains in both Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Muay Thai, the most common (and often cited as most effective) mix used in MMA. Oneal judged me back in 2007 when I won UWO's Client Counselling Competition. Who knows, MMA fights might be the new locale for client development.
The affection flows the other way too. MMA star Randy Couture has gone through several divorces and made this video spoof of a family lawyer during the 2009 World MMA Awards: