Sunday 26 January 2020

Five issues for Irish MMA in the wake of the Joao Carvalho tragedy

Conor McGregor's success has fuelled a major rise in the popularity of mixed martial arts in this country.
Conor McGregor's success has fuelled a major rise in the popularity of mixed martial arts in this country.

Cormac Byrne

The world of Mixed Martial Arts in Ireland has never been under so much scrutiny. Here are five issues that need to be looked at in the wake of Joao Carvalho's tragic death.

1. The provision of medical assistance is determined by promoters

At the moment, the level of medical supervision at MMA events in Ireland is dictated by the promoters.

They determine whether one, two or three doctors present at cage-side.

There is no authority in Ireland that can impose minimum standards on these promoters. MMA with three medical professionals at the scene is just as legal as MMA with a solitary doctor on call.

More medical staff means more money and less profit and that creates a very dangerous conflict of interest.


2. The gloves

Do 4-6 ounce gloves offer enough protection to the fighter on the receiving end of a punch in MMA?

After Conor McGregor sent Jose Aldo sprawling toward the canvas last December, he admitted that it was 'precision and not power' that the delivered the knockout blow.

"These are four inch gloves, that's all it takes and especially when you add my left hand. No one can take my left hand shot."

In boxing, fighters generally compete in 10 ounce gloves and use much heavier ones for sparring and training to help prevent hand injuries to themselves and to the stop the infliction of injuries on sparring partners.


3. Recognition

The Irish Sports Council doesn't recognise MMA as a sport but no MMA association or body has ever sought recognition.

Due to both these facts, MMA does not receive funding from the government or oversight from the Sports Council.

Sport Minister Michael Ring admitted last night that he was powerless to exert any influence, other than moral pressure, because MMA in Ireland is ruling itself.

We're in limbo.

It was revealed last week in the Sports Council's annual doping review, that they were conducting tests on UFC athletes on behalf of USADA, on athletes belonging to a sport they don't recognise and they were being paid to do it.


4. Are the IAPA the answer?

Headed by SBG Ireland chief John Kavanagh, the Irish Amateur Pankration Association, is the closest thing to resembling a national body for MMA in this country.

Their goal is to take the control of safety provision at MMA events away from commercial promoters, to educate those participating in the sport to the dangers that exist, to keep data on individual fighters, to enforce medical suspension periods for injured fighters and to submit MMA to accountable governance.

The Irish Sports Council and the Government need to recognise that the IAPA is a way into the world of MMA and the IAPA must accept that they can better safeguard their members with more funding.


5. Attitudes need to change

Everyone within Irish MMA and those looking on with disgust need to take stock of the fact that this phenomenon isn't going away and, not only that, it's growing rapidly.

Abolitionists need to realise they are fighting a losing battle and enthusiasts need to protect themselves and future generations of martial artists by taking necessary precautions and changing aspects of their support that are unsustainable.

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