Archive for April, 2014

One question that is yet to be judicially tested is whether grappling competitions are illegal under Section 83 of Canada’s Criminal Code.

We know that amateur wrestling and judo contests are legal, unless Provinces pass laws to the contrary, as these are caught by the “Olympic Sport” exemptions in section 83(2)(a) of the Code.  But what about other grappling events such a a submission Brazilian Jiu Jitsu tournament?  Would these run afoul of the Criminal Code without a Provincial framework in place?  An argument can be made either way.

As a starting point, section 83 prohibits all prize fights that don’t meet the exemptions in the Criminal Code, with prize fights being defined as “an encounter or fight with fists, hands or feet between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them“.

Eliminating striking likely doesn’t exempt the Criminal Code from being triggered because of the inclusion of the word “or”.  Using “or” instead of “and” means the illegal encounter can allow “fists” or “hands” or “feet” to be used.  It is not a stretch to say that a submission grappling contest without strikes is still an encounter with hands or feet.

BC, to take one Province, appears to view grappling as being captured under section 83 and have passed an Order in Council allowing both ‘grappling‘ and ‘jiu jitsu‘ contests to be held without violating the Criminal Code.

New Brunswick’s combat sports bill, on the other hand, also appears to view grappling contests as being captured by the Criminal Code but does not include any non-Olympic grappling sports under their list of “prescribed” combat sports.

Some other Provinces have simply not addressed the situation leading to a lack of unanimity across Canada whether Section 83 is intended to capture grappling events.

On the other side of the coin, an argument can be made that section 83 was never intended to cover grappling events.  As discussed with the uncertainty surrounding the legality of professional kickboxing in Canada, when legislation is not clear on its face Courts can look at the intent of the law.  In doing so Court’s often look to legislative debate surrounding the law.  Interestingly, when the application of Bill S-209 to grappling was discussed the following exchange took place among lawmakers:

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Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Senator Runciman, I have an e-mail from a gentleman who’s in my riding from the Ontario Grappling Alliance. Of course, I wasn’t even aware there was an Ontario Grappling Alliance until I received the e-mail, but I’m going to ask you and Mr. Pacetti as well. He seems to believe or has received some advice that because of the changes in this legislation, grappling will now fall into a non-legal status.

My review of the legislation indicates that if it was legal before, it’s still going to be legal; if it was illegal before, then it may or may not still be illegal, but it was illegal to begin with. I don’t see how this legislation would affect grappling and the Ontario Grappling Alliance.

3:45 p.m.

Ontario (Thousand Islands and Rideau Lakes), CPC

Senator Bob Runciman

No, I don’t know either. That issue, not specifically with grappling, came up during the hearings. There is no known sport that does not use fists, hands, or feet. There was talk about naming specific sports. That could create problems, if new hybrid sports come on the scene in the coming years.

I think his fears can be allayed and that he will be safe under this change in the legislation.

3:45 p.m.

Kyle Seeback Brampton West, ON

3:45 p.m.

Massimo Pacetti Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel, QC

As a non-lawyer, my opinion is that we’re just adding something; we’re not deleting. The bill is just adding “feet” to the Criminal Code, so I don’t see what the issue would be.

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Although a strong argument can be made that s. 83 does capture non-Olymoic grappling contests by virtue of the plain reading of the prize fight definition, the above exchange brings some uncertainty to the equation.  Provinces wold be wise to address the situation with legislative clarity addressing what contests are legal and how, if at all, they must be sanctioned.  Silence leads to uncertainty.

 

After covering what many consider to be the dryer topics in combat sports such as new legislation, regulatory developments, contract disputes and the like, I have finally come across a legal topic a little more interesting that the norm.  In short see what happens when the authorities in Thailand punish local thugs by forcing them in the ring with trained Muay Thai fighters:

 

New Brunswick legislature image

Following the legal shake up caused by Bill S-209 which had the practical effect of shutting down MMA and Kickboxing  in Moncton, the Province of New Brunswick has now introduced legislation to create a Province wide athletic commission which will legalize and regulate these sports throughout the Province.

Bill 72, the “Combat Sport Act” was read for the first time on April 22, 2014 in New Brunswick’s legislature.

The full text of the bill can be found here: New Brunswick Bill 72

Bill 72 deviates somewhat from the paths other Provinces have taken.   I have had a chance to review the legislation and here are some of the highlights:

The Bill seeks to regulate both amateur and professional combat sports.

On the amateur side boxing, judo, karate, tae kwon do and wrestling are ‘prescribed’ combat sports.  The list does not include amateur MMA although section 2 allows the government to add MMA  and other sports to the list by regulation.    The act allows the Government to authorize Provincial Sport Organizations to “approve and regulate” amateur combat sports.  Once done these PSO’s will have monopoly powers to oversee their respective sports.  Realistically, if a PSO can be formed for amateur MMA in the Province a case can be made to add the sport to the Province’s prescribed list.

The Act carves out one exception to the need for PSO oversight of amateur combat sports, namely the ‘educational institution’ exception.  Amateur combat sports can be held without PSO approval in “a school, university or community college…if the event is being held as a part of the institution’s curriculum or extra-curriculum programming“.

On the Professional side, the Act creates a Province wide Combat Sports Commission which will be tasked to approve and regulate events in professional combat sports (with the exception of professional wrestling).  Here the act largely mirrors other jurisdictions with a Province wide commission tasked with overseeing “combat sports” which are defined as “a sport in which fighters use striking, throwing, grappling or submission techniques, or a combination of those techniques”.  This broad definition clearly captures MMA.  The commission enjoys the typical powers such as issuing licenses for events and event participants, and a host of administrative and investigative powers to ensure compliance.

Lastly, section 42 of the Act strips municipal commissions of their powers bringing a Province wide model to the oversight of combat sports in New Brunswick.

This past weekend the Canadian Amateur Mixed Martial Arts National Championships (an event affiliated with the IMMAF) took place in Ontario and the Province, apparently aware of the well publicized event, appears content to look the other way instead of passing appropriate laws to allow such events to be hosted in compliance with the Criminal Code.   The promoter has now uploaded a number of the matches on YouTube:


Apparently Ontario is doing little more than “reviewing” the situation but seem slow in making any legal changes.

As previously discussed, there currently is no legal framework in place for amateur MMA events to take place in Ontario in compliance with section 83 of the Criminal Code.  I will repeat myself in stating that if the Government is looking the other way because they are now ok with amateur MMA they are going about it the wrong way.  There is no reason why amateur MMA can’t be legalized in Ontario and the Government can choose to follow either the BC Model, the Saskatchewan Model or carve their own path.  Until this is done those that participate in the sport are taking a gamble as to whether the authorities will seek to enforce the letter of the law.  If you are a stakeholder in the Ontario MMA Community you should contact Craig Stewart, Manager of Sport and Recreation, at 416-326-4370 and make your voice heard.

 

 

COMMAND Training Course Poster

The BC Athletic Commissioner has announced that John McCarthy’s and Jerin Valel’s COMMAND training course will be back in BC from June 7-9, 2014 which will provide

– Certification for New Professional MMA Judges

– Re-certification for Previously Certified COMMAND Judges

– Re certification for Previously Certified COMMAND Referees

– Training for Amateur MMA Referees which may lead to Recognition by the BCAC of Amateur Status

The Registration Form can be accessed here.

 

 

 

 

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As recently discussed, the Province of Quebec has not legalized professional MMA under the Unified Rules but instead adopted a peculiar cousin of the sport known as “Mixed Boxing“.

Perhaps more interestingly, as John McCarthy confirms, Quebec’s Athletic Commission instructs its officials to ignore their own rules when the UFC comes to town.

John McCarthy Quote Re Quebec MMA

 

 

 

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I repeatedly criticize this situation for the simple reason that if Quebec wants these to be the law of the land they should make the necessary amendments, not instruct government licensed officials to ignore their own laws.

So how many of Quebec’s own Rules were broken during the TUF Nations Finale?  By my count dozens on the main card alone , some of which are capable of overturning the result of the bout which is no insignificant oversight.

While I am not criticizing the combatants or the referees, as they are instructed to ignore Quebec’s laws by the Athletic Commission (the very body created to uphold their combat sports laws), it is noteworthy to document how many Quebec rules are simply overlooked during an MMA bout.  Using the Rules highlighted in my previous post (The Knockdown Rule, No Strikes to the Knee, No Knee or Elbow Strikes, No Standing Chokes or Submissions)  here is the main card breakdown on a bout by bout basis:

Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy

This bout was fairly pure under Quebec rules although there were a few transgressions.  In the first round Kennedy gets Bisping in a bodylock and delivers a few knee strikes to the back of Bisping’s legs in violation of Quebec Rule 195.28(12).  He then delivers a few short elbows on the ground in violation of this same rule.

In the second round we see a flying knee delivered by Bisping violating this rule.

The third round again was fairly clean although there were a few Elbows thrown by Kennedy from the mount and side control positions.

The last two rounds were fairly uneventful save a few more prohibited knee strikes thrown to the back of Bisping’s legs.

Patrick Cote vs. Kyle Noke

The first round begins with Noke delivering a few kicks to Cote’s knees in violation of  Rule 195.13.  From there he delivers a knee from the clinch and a further knee after the fighter’s separate.   Cote then spends much of the time in Note’s guard where Cote delivers a series of heavy elbows and Note responds with a few of his own.

The second round begins with Note dropping Cote with a prohibited knee to the head.  From there he is allowed to continue with strikes instead of retiring to a neutral corner as required by Rule 195.9.  After Cote rises Note delivers both a stomp kick and roundhouse kick to Cote’s knee.  Cote responds and after getting into Note’s guard Cote delivers more prohibited elbows and then knees as Note gets back to his feet.  The round ends with Note delivering more prohibited kicks to Cote’s knees.

The last round saw more of the same in terms of Quebec rules violations with Note delivering a few stomps and kicks to Cote’s knees, Cote then delivered a series of elbows while on the ground and lastly a few knee strikes after Note got back to his feet.

Sam Stout vs. KJ Noons

Although this bout was on the under-card it re-aired during the main card.  For this reason I will include it.  The bout was short but both combatants landed prohibited low kicks to each other’s knees in the opening seconds.  From there Sam Stout was dropped by a significant overhand right by Noons. Noons was not asked to retire to a neutral corner as required by Quebec law and instead was allowed to finish the bout with a series of strikes which followed the knockdown blow.

Sheldon Westcott vs. Elias Theodorou

The bout begins with each fighter exchanging a few prohibited knee strikes.   After a stint on the ground Theodorou rises with Westcott keeping his back who then attempts a Rear Naked Choke from the standing position which violates Rule 195.28(20) and 195.30.  The combatants then exchange a series of prohibited knees.  Each fighter throws at lest one more more kick to their opponents knees.   The second round has a great flurry of strikes to Westcott which ultimately lead to the end of the bout, included in these were a series of elbow strikes which are prohibited under Quebec law.

Chad Laprise vs. Oliver Aubin-Mercier

This bout was largely uneventful under Quebec’s Mixed Boxing Rules as it played out mostly as a pure kickboxing affair.  There were, however, a series of prohibited kicks by Laprise to Aubin-Mercier’s knees throughout the bout along with at least two attempted knee strikes to Aubin-Mercier’s head which appeared to make grazing contact.

Dustin Poirier vs. Akira Corassani

In the first round Poirier throws several kicks Corassani’s knee area all without a discretionary rest period.  Poirer threw a prohibited knee from the clinch.  Shortly after Corasani dropped Poirier with a punch and was not instructed “to retire to the farthest corner”.

Poirier then took Corassani down with a headlock violating the rule against standing submission attempts.  This was followed by a prohibited knee by Corrasani.  Lastly, the bout ends after Poirier drops Corassani with a body shot who then continued to land shots on the downed opponent instead of being asked to retire to the farthest corner.

 

Following the Wyoming State Board of MMA’s statement justifying a combatant fighting after losing consciousness between rounds the Association of Boxing Commissions has stepped in calling for a full investigation of this matter.

The ABC’s press release has just been shared with me and I reproduce a copy below:

 

ABC Press Release

Update April 13, 2014 – The Wyoming State Board of MMA has responded to criticism of the below conduct with the following self serving comments:

All parties, including Mr.Maranhao, believed and stated unequivocally that Mr. Maranhao was medically safe to and capable of finishing the fight….

The Wyoming State Board of Mixed Martial Arts stands by our physicians and officials and has the utmost confidence in their ability to assess the medical status of Wyoming contestants. Safety is the Board’s number one priority and all necessary precautions were taken at the April 11 RFA event to ensure that Mr. Maranhao was safe to continue fighting.

Again, thank you for your interest in Wyoming MMA.

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Bloody Elbow has done a commendable job with continued follow up of this story.

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In what has been described asone of the most shocking, sickening and incompetent moments in MMA history“, a fighter in Wyoming was allowed to continue competing after collapsing from his stool in between rounds at a recent MMA event.

The below GIF (Credit to @ZProphet_MMA of Fansided.com) speaks for itself.

RFA Fighter Collapse Gif

The fighter’s collapse is likely the result of exhaustion, dehydration or the accumulation of trauma.  The most charitable explanation is, perhaps, a dramatic demonstration of loss of the will to continue competing.  However it is interpreted one thing is clear, this combatant should never have been allowed to meet the bell for the next round.

Given that BloodyElbow’s Brent Brookhouse has vowed to follow up with the Wyoming State Board of Mixed Martial Arts to investigate this incident I decided to take a quick look at the regulatory scheme that will be triggered.

The Board exists, in their own words, with fighter safety as their “top priority”.  Appreciating this there are three participants worth scrutinizing, namely the Referee, the Ringside Physician and the Seconds.

Referees are required to hold a licence with the Board.  Under Chapter 11 of Wyoming’s MMA Rules, a referee “shall” stop a contest when a contestant’s “physical conditions so requires” or when a contestant “is not demonstrating their best efforts“.   Under this provision the Referee was required to stop this bout.

Under Chapter 9 of Wyoming’s Rules, no bout shall “continue” unless an approved physician is seated at the ring or cage side.  Under Chapter 9, section 1, Physicians “must be designated by the board“.  This appears to be a lesser requirement than being a licensee making it unclear whether physician’s are subject to disciplinary proceedings by the Board.

Lastly, all seconds must be registered with the Board pursuant to the obligations set out in Chapter 7 of Wyoming’s Rules.  Again, this appears to be a lesser requirement than full licencing which is only required for “promoters, contestants and officials (referees, judges and inspectors)

Under Chapter 1 section 2, both Referees and Seconds agree not to violate any provisions of the Rules.  Breaches of the Rules can result in denial, suspension or revocation of licensure with the Board.  Discipline also appears to be available for non licence holders with the board having discretion to ban individuals who break the rules from attending future bouts.

Whatever the remedy sought, Chapter 12 section 3 sets out the procedures to issue formal complaints to the Board with respect to licence holders.  Anyone concerned about the above ought to follow the procedures set out therein to trigger the Board’s duty to investigate this incident.

 

TUF Nations Finale Logo

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The TUF Nations Finale on April 16, 2014 will legally be governed by Quebec’s Regulation Regarding Combat Sports .  These regulations don’t actually approve MMA under the unified rules, instead the Province has legalized a unique sport known as “mixed boxing”.   As previously highlighted, these call for some significant variations from the Unified Rules.

But there’s no need to worry UFC fans, as you’ll get a familiar show with the TUF Nations finale as the Quebec Commission has a track record of telling officials to ignore their actual rules when the big show comes to town.

What differences do Quebec’s actual rules have from the Unified Rules?  They include the following peculiarities:

The Definition:

195.1.  

“mixed boxing” means a combat sport during which contestants of the same sex fight standing or on the mat; when they fight standing, the contestants use kickboxing techniques unless modified in this Chapter; when they fight on the mat, the only permitted submission techniques are those described in this Chapter.

The Knockdown Rule:

195.9.  Where a contestant has been knocked down, the referee shall instruct the opponent to retire to the farthest corner, which the referee shall indicate by pointing.

The referee may stop the bout and declare the opponent the winner when a contestant is no longer able to defend himself adequately.

No Strikes to the Knee:

195.13.  Where a contestant receives a blow to the genitals or to the knee, the referee may interrupt the bout and allow up to 5 minutes for recovery.

If the contestant does not continue the bout after that delay, the referee shall:

 (1)    following a blow to the genitals, indicate that the contestant has lost by abandonment;

 (2)    following a blow to the knee, disqualify his opponent.

 

The Judging Criteria:

195.18.  The judge shall base his decision on the effectiveness of the contestants, taking into account the following factors:
  (1)    a blow struck to any vulnerable part of the body;
  (2)    aggressiveness, as demonstrated by the contestant’s forcing the fight during the round by making the greater number of attacks;
  (3)    conspicuous ring generalship, that is, skill in swiftly taking advantage of all opportunities offered, and the ability to cope with all situations as they arise, to foresee and neutralize the opponent’s attacks and to adopt a style with the opponent is not particularly comfortable;
  (4)    defence by skillful evasions and parries; and
  (5)    the ability for a contestant to take down an opponent on the mat.

 No Knee or Elbow Strikes:

195.28.  When the contestants are fighting, each of the following acts constitutes a foul:

  (12)    hitting an opponent with the bent knee or bent elbow;

No Standing Chokes or Submissions:

195.28.  When the contestants are fighting, each of the following acts constitutes a foul:

  (20)    grabbing an opponent by the throat.

195.30.  Where opponents are fighting on the mat, arm or leg holds as well as strangulation are permitted.

Appreciating the above, the question is will the Quebec Athletic Commission follow their own rules or will they turn a blind eye again to the laws of their Province for the UFC?

Quebec Regie TRT TUE Response Letter

With the UFC coming to Quebec City for the TUF Nations Finale on April 16, 2014, I contacted the Quebec Athletic Commission (The Regie des alcools, des courses at des jeux) to determine if they have followed Nevada’s lead by banning TRT TUE’s or if these are still available in Quebec.

Section 71.1 of Quebec’s Regulation Regarding Combat Sports specifically adopts the WADA prohibited list when it comes to Performance Enhancing Drugs.  The Regulations do not specifically address the availability of TUE’s so I reached out to the Regie and asked what polices they have  in force with respect to Therapeutic Use Exemptions for Testosterone Replacement Therapy and other prohibited substances.  I requested a copy of their written policy and the standards required in order to obtain a TUE.  The Regie’s answer, which I reproduce in full, is nothing short of perplexing.

The Regie responded as follows

Dear Sir, The Regie des alcools, des courses et des jeux is sensitive to the practices regarding combat sports that are applied elsewhere in the world.  All legislative and regulatory changes are the results of government commitment“.

So, are TRT TUE’s still available in Quebec and are any in place for the TUF Nations finale?  Your guess is as good as mine.