09/02/2018

Ministers Urge MMA Leaders To Introduce Best-Practice Safety Standards

Leaders within Ireland's Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) community are being urged to introduce best-practice safety and governance standards as quickly as possible.

The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Shane Ross, and the Minister with responsibility for Sport, Brendan Griffin, have both called on senior MMA figures to adopt better safety standards in response to recommendations of the Coroners' Court in the inquest into the death of MMA fighter Joao Carvalho.

The Portuguese MMA fighter was fatally injured during a contest in Dublin on the 09 April 2016.

On Thursday, a coroner returned a verdict of misadventure and recommended the endorsement of a national governing body for MMA.

Noting the recommendations of the Coroners' Court, Minister Ross stated: "I cannot begin to imagine how painful the passing of Joao Carvalho has been for Mr. Carvalho's family and in particular his brother, Alexandre, who was at his bedside for his brother's final moments.

"Yesterday (8 February), the Coroner returned a verdict of death by misadventure and also made some recommendations.  The absence of a National Governing Body (NGB) for MMA in Ireland is unacceptable.  All sporting organisations in Ireland are autonomous and self-governing.

"The Irish Government, through its agency Sport Ireland, works with the sports NGBs, to ensure that high standards of safety and governance are understood and put into place. It is absolutely crucial that the sports bodies do everything they can to protect the safety and welfare of their members."

Minister Griffin added that he was disappointed with the unacceptably slow pace of progress in the case of MMA.

"I am terribly disappointed that there has been so little progress made on establishing appropriate governance arrangements," he said.

"It appears to me that MMA leaders here in Ireland are deliberately dragging their feet on the establishment of appropriate governance and safety standards. Today I call on the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) to do the right thing – take the steps that are required to safeguard your fighters and prevent needless injury and loss of life"

Minister Griffin noted the Coroner's recommendation that, in the short-term, MMA should adopt safety standards used in professional boxing.

He also welcomed the actions of Professor Daniel Healy, the Beaumont-based neurosurgeon and co-founder of not-for-profit Safe MMA Ireland which was set up for the protection and safety of the Mixed Martial Arts competitors.

"I commend Professor Dan Healy for his vigilance, at his own personal cost in terms of time and money, in pursuing adequate safety standards for MMA," Minister Griffin said.

"His persistent efforts have resulted in a major improvement in safety standards at MMA events.  I would urge MMA leaders to formalise such safety precautions.  Such standards could and should be formally backed by MMA in Ireland through the establishment of a National Governing Body, recognised by Sport Ireland. What is taking so long? Only the IMMAA can answer that."

(LM)

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