MMA allowed back in town

Mixed martial arts bouts are once again allowed in Vernon.

Vernon city council lifted its ban, Monday, on public MMA matches.

In September 2014, the council of the day banned MMA at the urging of RCMP, who claimed the sport had ties to organized crime.

Coun. Kelly Fehr made the motion at an earlier council meeting, and RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher advised she has no problem with MMA events in town.

“As with any event that serves alcohol, I would be more concerned with the behaviour of individuals within the audience attempting to emulate what they observed during and after the event. This would be mitigated by ensuring enough police officers are in attendance and specifically assigned to the policing of the event and immediate area. To ensure the police officers are not called away from this duty, I would recommend overtime, which would be billed back to the promoter, and that this is clearly understood by the promoter in advance of the booking,” Baher said in a report to council.

Unity Mixed Martial Arts and Kickboxing head coach and owner Raja Kler says the sport is different now.

“It's probably the most regulated sport out there – amateur and professional,” said Kler. “If you want to have a hockey game, you don't have to have a doctor on site, you don't have to do a health check before the game and a health check after the game ... and that just amateur.”

Kler said in the past, MMA was “kind of like the Wild West. (But) it has completely turned around.”

Kler pointed out matches must go through the B.C. Athletic Commission, and there is just no room for the criminal element in the sport.

“It's regulated through a governing provincial body, so you cannot even get your promoter's licence if you have a criminal background,” said Kler. “It's pretty well regulated now.”

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