Mixed martial arts

Promoters of combat sports events in Moncton want the local boxing commission to oversee fights until the provincial government appoints a commission. (Eric Jamison/Associated Press)

Mixed martial arts promoters in Moncton are asking the provincial government to help them bring fights back to the city.

Most combat sports are now on hold in New Brunswick because there is no provincial commission to regulate them.

The federal government says fights are illegal unless they are approved by a provincial commission.

'We bring a lot of money into Moncton, it's definitely a major impact. We bring about 1,500 people to our shows and right now we're ranked in the top five in Canada and for small town Moncton that's pretty good.' - Mike Williams, Elite 1 MMA

Until last month, promoter Mike Williams, of Elite 1 MMA, was organizing sold out mixed martial arts competitions at Casino New Brunswick.

"We bring a lot of money into Moncton," he said. "It's definitely a major impact, we bring about 1,500 people to our shows and right now we're ranked in the top five in Canada and for small town Moncton that's pretty good."

Mixed martial arts (MMA) fights won't be allowed until the provincial government sets up a commission to oversee them, something Williams worries could take anywhere from six months to two years.

Province says 'progress being made'

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Healthy and Inclusive Communities said the provincial government must "undertake all due diligence in establishing the appropriate framework in order to ensure that proper safety protocols, guidelines and rules are in place."

The spokesperson says progress is being made that would sanction combat fights in the province and a proposal is expected to be brought forward during this session of the legislature, which begins on Nov. 5.

Williams and promoter Tony Doolin, president of the Canadian Muay-Thai Association, are asking the province to allow the Moncton Boxing and Wrestling Commission to oversee fights in the meantime.

"We're trying to get the Boxing Commission of Moncton reinstated," said Doolin.  

Gerry Thomas, chair of the Moncton Boxing and Wrestling Commission, says he would like to see his organization take on that role.

Thomas estimates more than 50,000 people visited Moncton from outside of the province in the last two years to watch combat sports.

"Some from Maine, some from Quebec, Nova Scotia, and a lot of them from PEI," said Thomas.

He says the fights bring in $1 million per year in ticket sales alone.

A spokesperson for the provincial government says giving temporary permission to the Moncton Boxing and Wrestling Commission to oversee mixed martial arts or other combat sports would be "premature for government."