Combative sports report due Thursday may dictate future of fights in Edmonton

Mixed martial arts fighters and fans may get some clarity Thursday when a report delving into the death of MMA fighter Tim Hague is released to the city.

'If we can’t pull it together, then frankly there won’t be any more fights,” Mayor Don Iveson says

Tim Hague is shown at a 2009 UFC weigh-in. Hague died as a result of injuries from a boxing match that took place on June 16 in Edmonton. (Neil Davidson/Canadian Press)

Mixed martial arts fighters and fans may get some clarity Thursday when a report delving into the death of MMA fighter Tim Hague is released by the city.

The report, prepared by accounting firm MNP LLP, is expected to include recommendations on how to make the industry in Edmonton safer.

Hague, 34, died in June, two days after fighting Adam Braidwood, a fight regulated by the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission.

In a fight two months earlier, Hague lost by a technical knockout, in a different jurisdiction. That information, Mayor Don Iveson said, was not shared with Edmonton.

On Friday, city council put a ban on issuing new licences for any combative sports events until Dec. 31, 2018, drawing criticism from the combative sports community. One boxer, Jelena Mrdjenovich, called the decision a "tragic loss."

Mayor Don Iveson said in an interview Wednesday that council has not seen the report but has been told it will include several recommendations.

"We think that that may take some time to implement, but if measures are taken quickly and things are moving in the right direction, it may be possible for us to lift the moratorium earlier," he said.

The mayor said the city may sanction some previously scheduled events, such as Mrdjenovich's upcoming fights.

But he stressed that making the industry safer is the priority.

"If there's dispute over the recommendations ...  between the industry, the commission, the city and anyone else who has a stake in this,  if we can't pull it together, then frankly there won't be any more fights."

Pro wrestling event postponed 

On Wednesday evening, Rogers Place announced that a previously scheduled professional wrestling event at the arena would be postponed.

"Following new guidelines established by Edmonton's city council, WWE's event on Friday, February 9 at Rogers Place has been postponed," a statement on the Rogers Place website said.

"The WWE is working closely with the local commission, and hope to return with their sports entertainment events to Edmonton in the near future."

The Feb. 9 event was to be the WWE's debut at the arena.

Mayor calls for provincial commission

Iveson said allowing licences again would largely depend on the provincial government stepping up and committing to regulating the industry. 
Mayor Don Iveson said reinstating MMA fights in Edmonton will depend on the city, the commission and the province implementing recommendations in the report. (CBC)

"If we had a province-wide commission, which we have been calling for for years, then there would be one database of information about fighter history and fighter health."

"I can't say that it would have produced a different outcome for Mr. Hague. But what I want to ensure in the future is that the patchwork approach to combative sports regulation in this province needs to be replaced by a consistent and province-wide framework."

The Alberta Urban Municipalities Association voted in November to pressure the province into creating a regulatory body.

The report will be made public Thursday. Council will discuss the findings at a committee meeting in January. Iveson said at that time councillors will weigh the impacts of the moratorium against the recommendations in the report.