WHAT IS IT ALL ABOUT?
Over the better part of the last two and a half decades, Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has become one of the fastest growing sports on the planet. Through the success of the sport’s flagship promotion the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) MMA has managed to break into the mainstream and shake off the taboo reputation it once carried. As the sport’s global popularity grew, so did the level of regulation which was introduced to increase fighter safety, oversee bouts and stamp out doping. In fact, in June 2015 the UFC introduced the first independent anti-doping program in major professional sports in conjunction with the United States Anti-Doping Agency (USADA).
In the UK, MMA’s popularity has also seen a great increase. There are a number of top homegrown promotions such as BAMMA and Cage Warriors that are selling out arenas and being broadcasted live on TV and hundreds of professional gyms and teams all over the country which has subsequently led to countless British fighters going on to compete, and even win titles in the UFC. However, while the UK has managed to keep up with the US in terms of the sport’s popularity, there is a huge disparity between the level of regulation across the pond and that which has been introduced in this country.
MMA is not recognised by UK Sport which is the government’s organisation for directing the development of sport in this country, and therefore does not receive any funding. As a result there can be no officially recognised governing body for Mixed Martial Arts in the UK, unlike the vast majority of other major sports, meaning that MMA promotions must regulate themselves. Many promotions do hold their events professionally but for smaller promotions this can be difficult due to the sheer costs involved. Medical testing and cleareance is carried out by voluntary medical project Safe MMA, however, the organisation currently only works with a small number of British promotions. Although they also now operate in the Republic of Ireland where they have medically overseen every professional MMA event since the tragic death of Portugese welterweight João Carvalho in 2016. There is no doping body or process in UK MMA whatsoever. While professional MMA events are legal in the sense that they are not unlawful, the sport does not receive any legal exemptions that other combat sports such as boxing have which relate to injury or even death. This essentially means that promoters, fighters and officials could be liable if something were to go wrong in the cage. However, seeing as at this moment there have been no MMA related deaths in the UK, this is currently untested in a court of law. Nevertheless, due to the physically combative nature of MMA it could be argued that this is an unfortunately inevitability.
Beyond the Cage: The Fight for UK MMA Regulation is an audio documentary exploring the risks and dangers arising from this lack of mandatory regulation, as well as highlighting the efforts to introduce it, as well as the obstacles in the way.
LISTEN TO THE DOC BELOW
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Listen to a supplementary podcast providing loads of background info
Meet the people who contributed to the doc