City hall has finally tapped out on its decade-long resistance to allow mixed martial arts (MMA) events in municipal-owned facilities in Chilliwack.
Back in 2008 when organizers asked to host an “extreme” fighting event at the Landing Sports Centre, council declined the request pointing to concerns over liability, but also the sense at the time that the sport was connected to gangs.
Maybe more importantly, for city hall, MMA wasn’t connected to a sanctioned sports commission.
But what might have seemed like a novelty sport a decade ago has grown in popularity and respectability.
Sardis secondary grad and pro MMA fighter Sabah Fadai approached city hall about the possibility of hosting an MMA event at a city sports venue, specifically Evergreen Hall or the Landing Sports Centre.
And council said yes, the difference now being that MMA events can get sanctioning through the B.C. Athletic Commissioner (BCAC).
Established in 2013, the BCAC oversees the conduct of professional boxing, MMA, amateur kickboxing, muay thai and pankration in the province.
At its July 17 meeting, council agreed – unanimously and without discussion – to a staff recommendation to approve the request from Rise Fighting Championship to host an event as long as the event has proof of BCAC sanctioning and conditions set out in city policy are met.
The change in attitude about MMA comes after years of having a bad reputation.
In 2008, Valleyfight requested to host an MMA event at the Landing Sports Centre but was turned down.
“Staff are concerned over the potential risk to patrons and city facilities due to the clientele that can frequent these types of events,” said a July 14, 2008 staff report, pointing to the rumours and realities of gang activity around MMA events at the time. “Additionally, there is concern with the social impact of hosting these kinds of events.… Staff have also been reluctant to interrupt the regular bookings of our recreation users in order to book ‘fights’”.
Since then numerous MMA events have been held at halls on local First Nations reserves, such as Tzeachten and Squiala.