Minister demands regulation for mixed martial arts after fighter’s death
One of the country’s sports watchdogs has said it will work with Government to establish how mixed martial arts operates in Ireland after the death of a fighter.
Sport Ireland said it does not recognise MMA in any form and it is not responsible for investigating Saturday’s bout in Dublin after which Portugal’s Joao Carvalho, 28, died in hospital.
The agency said it will also hold talks with the Department of Sport on possible regulations for the fights to take place in the future.
“Sport Ireland has had no formal engagement with any organisation representing MMA on recognition to date,” it said in a statement.
Carvalho suffered a technical knockout loss to Charlie “The Hospital” Ward in their welterweight contest at the National Stadium.
He was struck several times while on the floor before the referee stepped in.
At present MMA bouts do not need a specific licence to take place as they are indoors, in a sports venue and attract relatively small numbers.
But organisers may be required to apply for a licence if a minister has concerns about the safety and security of people attending or participating.
Michael Ring, Minister for Sport, said he wrote to organisers of MMA in Ireland in February 2014 demanding the same safety standards that apply in boxing and other sports.
He repeated a call for full regulation.
Sport Ireland, which brings together the Irish Sports Council, the National Sports Campus Development Authority, the Irish Institute of Sport and Coaching Ireland, said it recognises national governing bodies of sport.
It said it also operates a recognition programme for sports or disciplines that do not have that status.
“Sports seek recognition as it provides access to funding and other supports and services from Sport Ireland. For many organisations it is valuable as an endorsement of that body which may be important for governance and commercial reasons,” the agency said.
“There is a process for recognition and criteria must be met.”
Sport Ireland said this included open accountancy, board meetings, affiliation with international organisations, governance, rule books and club and membership programmes.
Doctors were in the National Stadium for the bout.
Ward is a member of Team SBG Ireland, the same camp as star Ultimate Fighting Championship belt holder Conor McGregor.
The Irish Amateur Pankration Association (IAPA), which represents mixed martial arts fighters, said it is working diligently with organisers of the weekend event, Total Extreme Fighting, to gather and evaluate all relevant facts and event processes.
Mixed martial arts has grown in popularity in Ireland since the emergence of McGregor as a title holder.
Tens of thousands of Irish fans have flooded bouts in Dublin and Las Vegas while the fights in octagon cages have received increasing mainstream media coverage.