City councillors are wrestling today as to whether to allow mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions in Vancouver.
The sport combines wrestling, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, boxing and Muay Thai, and has been temporarily banned in Vancouver since 2007.
Surrey MMA coach Andy Suitela is among those speaking in favour of the sport this morning at a standing committee meeting.
“We’re not going to kiss ass or suck up to people,” Suitela said. “All we’re doing is showing a great deal of respect toward people who are going to say ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ to the fastest growing sport in the world.”
MMA emerged on the sports scene in North America in the early ’90s as a no-holds barred, bare-knuckled bloodsport in which only biting, eye gouging and fishhooks were forbidden.
Since those early days, however, the sport has moved mainstream. Fighters wear four-ounce gloves and the sport is governed by numerous rules and regulations to protect athletes.
MMA is sanctioned in Calgary, Edmonton, Prince George and Vernon, but is banned in Ontario and P.E.I.
Suitela said opposition to the sport is often based in ignorance.
“Back in the day, people were afraid of Elvis Presley, they would only shoot him from the waist up on TV … it’s because of lack of knowledge and fear.”
In the report to councillors today, Vancouver police warn that not allowing the increasingly popular sport could result in more underground contests. In 2008, a fighter was shot in the leg outside an MMA fight on the Musqueam Reserve.
Last year, Ultimate Fighting Championship 83, held at Montreal’s Bell Centre, was the fastest sellout in he organization’s history.