Kim Couture Update: Couture Was Not Medically Cleared to Fight

Kim Couture after her loss to Sheila Bird. Photo by Charles Penner for Sherdog.com.

Details continue to come in regarding last weekend's Kim Couture fight, and they do not paint a pretty picture. Couture competed on AX Combat 1 in Calgary, losing to Sheila Bird via leg scissor choke. Referee Len Koivisto was very slow to realize that Couture was out, leaving her stuck in the choke and unconscious for roughly 12 seconds before waving off the fight, then telling Bird to release the choke. Video of the fight is in the full entry.

Now, it turns out that Couture should not have been allowed to fight at all.

Going into the Bird fight, Couture was on indefinite medical suspension from the New Jersey State Athletic Commission stemming from an October 2010 loss in New Jersey. MMA Junkie has the details:

NJSAC commissioner [Nick Lembo] said the strikes that Couture sustained during her [October] bout in New Jersey were serious, and following her decision loss, an NJSACB-approved physician suspended her indefinitely. To be cleared, she was required to get a CT scan of her facial bones and needed a green light from an ENT doctor.

Couture claims that she did receive the needed medical treatment in February, however she did not inform Lembo and the NJSAC until 6:00 last Friday, mere hours before the Bird fight. According to Lembo, the information she submitted was not sufficient to clear the suspension. 

Very late in the game, and the wrong paperwork. So, simply put, Calgary and Kim were notified that we were not lifting the suspension.

Commissions in Canada and the United States are unified under the Association of Boxing Commissions, and are supposed to honor the suspensions handed down by other commissions in order to prevent a fighter from being KO'd in New Jersey, then fighting the next night in a different state. It seems the Calgary commission was aware of Couture's suspension, but chose not to honor it and allow her to fight. According to ABC President Tim Lueckenhoff, this is a real problem:

The Calgary commission should have required that New Jersey lift the suspension from the database before participation. I have a policy that if the database shows you are suspended, you do not fight until removed and I have written documentation in hand. Each commission who is a member of the ABC must review the MMA database before each fight numerous times to ensure that fighters are not on suspension. The database is there for everyone's use, and to ignore the valuable information contained herein is criminal. Most fighters like in this case ignore this information and don't worry about it until it is time to fight again. [I] think we as commissioners need to make fighters accountable. They are professionals, and it is their responsibility to ensure that they are medically cleared to fight.

In response, the Calgary Combative Sports Commission has issued the following statement:

The Calgary Combative Sports Commission supports the suspensions established by other Commissions. Fighter safety is of utmost importance to us and we work toward that end in all theactions we take as a Commission.

As for the actions of referee Koivisto, CCSC representative Shirley Stunzi told MMA Weekly that the incident was under investigation at this time.

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