Saturday 21 April 2018

MMA death: I had 'grave concerns' this would happen, says minister

Need for regulation: Junior Sport Minister Michael Ring
Need for regulation: Junior Sport Minister Michael Ring

Kevin Doyle and Shane Phelan

Junior Sport Minister Michael Ring has said that he foresaw an incident like the death of Joao Carvalho - but he is powerless to regulate Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events.

The minister said he has been concerned about the growth of MMA in Ireland, especially since those overseeing it have yet to seek recognition from the State.

The largest MMA organisation in the country, the Irish Amateur Pankration Association (IAPA), has been working to build up its structures so it can eventually apply for recognition from Sports Ireland.

Mr Ring said: "I personally wouldn't be the biggest fan of this sport. They know that. But at the same time, this sport is taking place. There's a lot of people going to these events. And there has to be some regulation put in place."

Mr Ring, who wrote to 17 promoters of MMA in February 2014 raising concerns, said that no funding had been provided from the Irish Sports Council for MMA because it hasn't been recognised as an official sport.

"It's a new phenomenon that is after taking off," he said, adding: "They have never looked for recognition. There is no national government body. There's no local government body. It's a new sport that has taken off but it's something now that I will be asking the Sports Council to take a look at to see what we do to regulate it."

Speaking on Newstalk's 'Off The Ball', Mr Ring said: "We don't have any great control of any kind of sport in this country, except if they want funding from the State. If they are looking for funding from the State, there has to be a national governing body. There has to be rules, regulations."

He added: "I have concerns, grave concerns. And I did predict something like what happened this week, would happen, and it did happen."

The tragic death of Carvalho is a significant setback to efforts by advocates of MMA to have it recognised as a legitimate sport in Ireland.

The IAPA has been working to create a national governing body for MMA so it can apply for recognition from Sports Ireland. Its president, John Kavanagh, coaches MMA superstar Conor McGregor.

The association did not respond to a request from the Irish Independent for information on its structures or when it plans to apply for recognition.

However, it is known the association has introduced new regulations aimed at increasing fighter safety at the events and tournaments it has regulated in recent months.

Earlier this year, Sport Minister Paschal Donohoe said he believed MMA should be recognised as a sport in Ireland.

However, although Sport Ireland - formerly the Irish Sports Council - has an agreement with the US Anti-Doping Agency to conduct testing on fighters, it does not recognise MMA as a sport.

A spokesman said it was aware of Mr Donohoe's comments but had never received a request for recognition.

Irish Independent

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