Edmonton, Alberta, Canada banned combat sports – including mixed martial arts and boxing – in early December in response to an investigation into the death of former UFC heavyweight Tim Hague; who died as the result of injuries sustained in a boxing match in the city last June.
The investigation, by accounting firm Meyers Norris Penny (MNP) LLP, examined the practices of the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission (ECSC) and its executive director Pat Reid. The Combative Sports Review Report that was produced as a result of that investigation found that the ECSC did not follow some of its own policies with regards to fighter safety.
The key policy not followed in the lead-up to Hague’s death involved the assessment of medical suspensions. The ECSC’s policy is that a fighter who sustained two or three knockouts or technical knockouts due to head blows within a year should be suspended for 365 days.
Hague was permitted to box despite having amassed a sufficient number of KO losses to warrant a suspension. Hague also competed in other bouts prior to his fatal fight while he could have been suspended. MNP considered that one of the reasons the ECSC failed to appropriately suspend Hague was because his knockout losses occurred over different sports; MMA, boxing, and super-boxing (boxing with MMA style gloves). MNP concluded that the ECSC’s policy did not clearly define whether or not the 2-3 KO/TKO rule applied to just activity in one sport or all combat sports’ activity.
In their report MNP made a number of ‘key recommendations’ for the city of Edmonton, with a goal of making combat sports safer. One of those recommendations was to consider all combat sports activity when calculating medical suspensions. Other recommendations include that fighters sign a formal pre-fight agreement that their medical suspension histories are up-to-date, ringside physicians suspend all fighters who sustain head injuries whether they won or loss, and that fighters can not be cleared to fight unless there provide medical evidence that they have not sustained brain trauma due to repetitive blows to the head.
In December, before the report was released, Edmonton implemented a one-year moratorium on combat sports events in the city. Since then only one event has taken place, a KO Boxing Promotions event was allowed to run on December 8th. KO Boxing is the same promotion Tim Hague last fought for. The event on December 8th featured Hague’s last opponent (Adam Braidwood) and occurred in the same arena Hague sustained his fatal injuries (Shaw Conference Centre).
Global News reports that last week Edmonton officially lifted the moratorium on combat sports; effective immediately. The decision came as a result of an Edmonton city council vote, which was held after a community and public services committee recommended that the ban be lifted.
“The message that council was sending — which is this industry really needs to be cleared up in some ways — that seems to have gotten through with everybody,” said Mayor Don Iverson. “We’ve made substantial progress to implement the recommendations from the independent review after Mr. Hague’s death.”
According to Global News Edmonton city council announced it will provide an update on May 23rd to detail the city’s implementation of the MNP report’s recommendations. The city council also hinted that it may advocate a drastic change in how combat sports are regulated in Edmonton. In a news release the council stated that they would support the establishment of a province-wide combative sports commission. Currently there are different sanctioning bodies in each of Alberta’s major urban centres (Edmonton, Calgary, Lethbridge, etc.).
The establishment of an Alberta commission is supported by the province’s municipal leaders, who voted in favour of the idea in November (per CBC News).
“Alberta is the only remaining province in our country without consistent provincial standards for combative sporting events,” said Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer, who tabled the resolution at an Alberta Urban Municipalities Association convention.
Alberta’s municipalities voted in favour of a province-wide commission in 2013 as well. However, at that time, no changes were made.