City rounds up for MMA debate - Metro US

City rounds up for MMA debate

It’s Round 2 for Vancouver’s ultimate fighting debate today as council again grapples with whether to allow professional mixed martial arts (MMA) events in the city.

A report by city staff, that was posted online yesterday, recommends the sanctioning of professional MMA events.

“I’m looking forward to seeing my first (professional MMA) event here in Vancouver,” said NPA Coun. Suzanne Anton.

She believes the staff recommendations will pass and that MMA events —which have been barred in Vancouver since 2007 — will be again allowed.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) bigwigs Mike Mersch and Lawrence Epstein are among those who are expected to address council on the topic.

Anton said she expects there will be some opposition — based largely on earlier (and bloodier) iterations of the sport.

“When there is a greater understanding that the sport itself has evolved into a truer athletic event, I’m hoping people will move off that position,” Anton said. “It is an event like many others that come to the city.”

Vancouver placed a moratorium on professional MMA events in 2007 and appeared to choke out the sport this spring when council again voted against allowing sanctioned fights.

Instead, the city decided to lobby the province to create a regulatory body to govern the sport in B.C. However, they left the cage door open by requesting a staff report on the legality and benefits of sanctioning MMA fights.

Andy Suitela, who trains MMA fighters and owns Surrey’s Suitela Fight Club, said the sport has become hugely popular and mainstream. Major events — like the UFC 97 in Montreal earlier this year — pump millions into the local economy.

Vision Vancouver Coun. Kerry Jang (along with Anton and Coun. Heather Deal) attended an amateur MMA fight at the Edgewater Casino at the end of November.

He said he doesn’t make any judgments on what sports people like or dislike, but said as councillor he has the responsibility to make sure the city is protected legally and that the fights are as safe as possible.

Currently banned

• UFC president Dana White told fans this summer that his company planned to hold an MMA event in Vancouver in June 2010, despite the current ban on the sport.

• On Monday, Canadian MMA fighter Georges St. Pierre was voted Sportsnet’s Canadian athlete of the year for the second year in a row. St. Pierre beat hockey superstar Sidney Crosby in fan Internet voting.

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