Wednesday 22 January 2020

'We don't have authority over pro fights,' says Irish MMA body

Joao Carvalho. Photo: Dave Fogarty
Joao Carvalho. Photo: Dave Fogarty
Shane Phelan

Shane Phelan

The country's main mixed martial arts (MMA) body has said it is not responsible for the regulation of professional bouts.

In the latest twist in the controversy over the death of Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho, the Irish Amateur Pankration Association (IAPA) said it had been working with promoters on safety standards and procedures.

However, in a statement it insisted it was "not recognised as the governing body for professional MMA" in Ireland.

The body also said: "The IAPA has no legal mandate or government funding and has no power to enforce its recommended guidelines in professional mixed martial arts."

The statement will be seen by many as an attempt by the organisation, which has been in existence since 2014, to distance itself from the tragedy.

However, the comments will deepen concerns surrounding the lack of regulation of MMA in Ireland.

The IAPA has been the closest thing to a governing body that the MMA has had here.

It was heavily associated with Saturday's Total Extreme Fighting (TEF) event at the National Stadium, which led to Mr Carvalho's death.

TEF and other promoters have committed to requirements set down by the IAPA, including yearly medical examinations and blood testing for fighters.

Charlie Ward, who fought Mr Carvalho, is trained by IAPA president John Kavanagh.

In the immediate aftermath of Mr Carvalho's death in Beaumont Hospital on Monday, the IAPA said it was working with the promoters "to gather and evaluate all relevant facts" and that it would participate in any investigation. The organisation is also covering the costs of returning Mr Carvalho's remains to his native Portugal and has raised €10,000 for his family.

However, in a statement on its webpage, the IAPA said it had only been working with MMA event promoters on a "voluntary consultation basis".

IAPA officials have refused to answer questions about the event and MMA's structures and governance in the aftermath of the tragedy, saying it is unable to comment due to ongoing investigations.

Previously, the body has said it was working towards becoming full regulators of MMA in Ireland. Last year, it secured recognition from the International Mixed Martial Arts Federation, MMA's international governing body. However, MMA is not officially recognised as a sport in Ireland and the IAPA has yet to apply to Sport Ireland for official recognition.

Sport Ireland chief executive John Treacy observed yesterday that MMA was operating without a governing body and said his agency would be bringing forward guidelines for the sport. He warned MMA would have no place in Ireland if those guidelines were not followed.

"If we bring forward guidelines and codes of practice and they are not followed, then I think there is no place for it in Ireland, it's as simple as that," he told RTÉ Radio One.

"The situation with MMA in the country is that there isn't a national organisation. It's made up of promoters and individuals.

"We sat down with them about two years ago. We said that they needed to form a corporate body in some way if they wanted to be recognised as a sport.

"I believe they have rules and regulations with regard to having doctors in place and what have you, but the sport is an extreme element of sport. There is danger there."

Mr Treacy said that in the wake of Mr Carvalho's death, promoters would have to look "very, very carefully" at the staging of further events to ensure "they have the rules and regulations and that the safety of their players and athletes is paramount".

Irish Independent

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