Members of Parliament have passed with overwhelming support a Senate bill that will change the Criminal Code to make mixed martial arts and other combative sports legal in a final vote of 267–9.

The changes will update the definition of a prize fight, which until now was defined as an encounter or fight with fists or hands, meaning that not only was MMA outside the law, but so were Olympic sports such as judo and taekwondo.

"I am delighted that members of Parliament from all parties recognized the importance of updating the Criminal Code to reflect today's reality," said the bill's sponsor, Conservative Senator Bob Runciman, in a written statement on Wednesday.

Ontario and Quebec had worked around the law by designating Ultimate Fighting Championship events as boxing matches, but "this bill gives provincial regulators the clarity they need to better regulate amateur and professional combative sports, and to protect the health and safety of athletes," Runciman said.


Heritage Minister James Moore, second from left, and Liberal MP Justin Trudeau, right, pose with UFC fighters Yves Jabouin, left, and Mark Hominick in September, 2011 on Parliament Hill. MPs have passed a Senate bill that will make mixed martial arts and other combative sports legal. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

The NDP's sports critic Matthew Dubé said in a written statement that "with great Canadian ambassadors, like George St-Pierre, mixed martial arts is becoming more and more popular."

"As such, it is important that the law be clear and updated so that safety and regulation are properly enforced."

The Canadian Medical Association opposed legalizing mixed martial arts and boxing, citing head injuries as the main concern.

Bill S-209, an act to amend the Criminal Code (prize fights), was first introduced by Runciman on April 4, 2012.

The growing and global success of the UFC was the driving force behind Runciman's bill.

With files from The Canadian Press