On the last day of April the UFC or Ultimate Fighting Championship held an event at Rogers Centre (nee Skydome) in Toronto. Personally, I’m not a fan but I find aspects of the MMA odyssey, that could be said to have culminated on April 29th in Toronto, to have interesting legal aspects. What does a combat sport have to do with law? Quite a bit; until 2010 mixed martial arts was illegal in Ontario; however, a regulatory change announced last August and commented on here at Slaw at the time was implemented last Autumn and allowed for this multi-million dollar event to occur in Toronto. The Athletics Control Act, General Regulation, RRO 1990 Reg 52 s 2 (as amended by O Reg 465/10) now defines mixed martial arts as “…fighting where blows are struck, in whole or in part, with the hand, elbows, knees or feet but does not include boxing”.
This is a sport which was once referred to by U.S. Senator John McCain as “human cockfighting”; while he later softened that stance it was only after some years and a concerted effort on the part of the sport to round off its harder edges. The comparison that is most often drawn to MMA as implied by the regulation is Boxing. Which caused me to think about the rules of such sports and the definitions we have in the Criminal Code. Boxing has long been accepted the world over, as an acceptable form of athletic endeavour, in no small part owing to a defined set of rules or code of conduct (which really is code for law) known as the Marquess of Queensbury Rules. These rules were published in 1867 and form the core of the modern set of rules of Boxing, they simply state:
1. To be a fair stand-up boxing match in a twenty-four foot ring or as near that size as practicable.
2. No wrestling or hugging allowed.
3. The rounds to be of three minutes duration and one minute time between rounds.
4. If either man fall through weakness or otherwise, he must get up unassisted, ten seconds be allowed to do so, the other man meanwhile to return to his corner; and when the fallen man is on his legs the round is to be resumed and continued until the three minutes have expired. If one man fails to come to the scratch in the ten seconds allowed, it shall be in the power of the referee to give his awart in favour of the other man.
5. A man hanging on the ropes in a helpless state, with his toes off the ground, shall be considered down.
6. No seconds or any other person to be allowed in the ring during the rounds.
7. Should the contest be stopped by any unavoidable interference, the referee (is) to name the time and place as soon as possible for finishing the contest, to that the match can be won and lost, unless the backers of the men agree to draw the stakes.
8. The gloves to be fair-sized boxing gloves of the best quality and new.
9. Should a glove burst, or come off, it must be replaced to the referee’s satisfaction.
10. A man on one knee is considered down, and if struck is entitled to the stakes.
11. No shoes or boots with springs allowed.
12. The contest in all other respects to be governed by the revised rules of the London Prize Ring.
It was only after MMA adopted a similar set of rules, (which are too long to post here in their entirety) that it moved from the periphery of athletic endeavour and into the mainstream. This further goes to show that law enters into all phases in life including striking intentional blows, “in whole or in part with the hand, elbows, knees or feet” where the person at the receiving end of the blows has consented to be struck.