Canadian Medical Association Seek to Ban MMA

(Added on Aug 26, 2010)

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Filed Under: News (Added on Aug 26, 2010)

At their annual meeting in Niagara Falls, members of the Canadian Medical Association voted to seek a ban on mixed martial arts events within the country.

Speaking to the group’s governing body, internist Victor Dirnfeld, who was president of the CMA in the late ’90s, laid out the rationale for why Canada should be a leader in banning a sport he deems as “savage and brutal.”

“The aim is to disable and maim your opponent,” Dirnfeld told his colleagues. “We should not tolerate this so-called sport in a civilized society.”

In the United States, MMA has grown over the past 20 years from a fringe specialty sport to one of the fastest-growing industries in athletics. Globally, mixed martial arts brings in huge amounts of revenue, led by companies like Ultimate Fighting Championship (valued at over $1 billion), Strikeforce (which has exclusive broadcast rights with Showtime), and World Extreme Cagefighting.

In fact, UFC is gearing up for its next pay-per-view event, UFC 118, to be held this Saturday night at Boston’s TD Garden. Here are some highlights from UFC 117, held earlier this month in Oakland:

Ultimately, the move to ban MMA in Canada – and whatever fruit it may bear – will likely not have much impact on the sport in the United States, but that another country is so actively seeking the sport’s removal from its borders speaks to the cloud that now hangs over organized MMA. This summer, a fighter died in South Carolina after suffering a brain hemorrhage in his first professional bout. In October 2007, Sam Vasquez slipped into a coma for 42 days and died from injuries sustained in a MMA fight in Houston.

Currently, 44 states have sanctioned mixed martial arts competitions. Notably absent from that list is New York, which will now surely feel the full force of UFC’s lobbying efforts. And, ironically, it was less than two weeks ago that the province of Ontario opted to allow MMA events.

The MMA community is not taking Canada’s actions lightly. Johnny Benjamin, a doctor specializing in combat sports, came out strongly against the CMA’s vote:

My opposition to their stance is based upon a lack of corroborating medical evidence, inconsistency in assessment and appreciation of sports-related risks, and the inclusion personal preferences and sensibilities in the regulation of sports.

I agree that MMA does put the athletes at risk for serious head/brain trauma. Unfortunately at this time, medical science does not clearly or fully understand the short and/or long-term consequences of these traumatic brain injuries.

With the booming popularity of MMA in the United States, it’s hard to see the Canadian campaign as an immediate threat to UFC’s market dominance, but with every fighter’s death and every public effort to bring the sport’s health risks to light, the pall over MMA seemingly grows darker.

By Erik Malinowski

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