Ross calls for MMA to introduce safety standards

Updated / Friday, 9 Feb 2018 20:46

Portuguese MMA fighter João Carvalho died in April 2016 after a bout in Dublin

Minister for Sport Shane Ross has called on Mixed Martial Arts chiefs in Ireland to introduce safety and governance standards.

His call follows recommendations of the Coroner's Court in the inquest into the death of Portuguese MMA fighter João Carvalho, who died in April 2016 after a bout in Dublin.

Yesterday, the coroner returned a verdict of misadventure and recommended the endorsement of a national governing body for MMA.

The inquest also recommended that all medical partners engage nationally qualified paramedics and in the short-term MMA should adopt safety standards used in professional boxing.

Mr Ross said in a statement: "It appears to me that MMA leaders here in Ireland are deliberately dragging their feet on the establishment of appropriate governance and safety standards. 

"Today I call on the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) to do the right thing - take the steps that are required to safeguard your fighters and prevent needless injury and loss of life. 

"Sport Ireland stands ready to help but can only help if you are willing to ask, and if you are willing to do the right thing."

Shane Ross


Read More:

Inquest hears Carvalho took 41 blows to the head
Putting a legal and regulatory shape on MMA


Sports Ireland Chief Executive John Treacy said it was "terrifying and frightening" to hear how events surrounding Mr Carvalho's death had played out.

Mr Treacy attended the inquest at Dublin's Coroner's Court.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Treacy said the inquest showed the devastation of the fighter's death for his family.

He said the organisation needs to have a proper legal entity or body in place to take responsibility for the sport with the support of the membership.

Sports Ireland does not recognise MMA as a sport, but Mr Treacy said it has made itself available to IMMAA to support it to move towards proper self-regulation.

He said a working group, chaired by Professor Jack Anderson, has recommended that a governing body needs to be set up. 

It highlighted how leadership is needed from MMA to take more responsibility and to ensure the safety of fighters.

However, Mr Treacy said there is no way to stop MMA fights going ahead without regulation.

MMA coach John Kavanagh released a statement on Facebook this evening saying: "IMMAA proactively fulfils its duties as the national governing body for Irish MMA despite lack of official recognition, the main barrier to recognition being administrative.

"When IMMAA (formerly IAPA) applied to Sport Ireland for official recognition in 2016, it was informed as per Sport Ireland procedure that it would need three years of financial transactions before it could be recognised.

"It is beyond IMMAA's powers to speed up bureaucratic process or to grant itself legal mandate to enforce its regulations.

"In spite of that, Irish MMAs 100% voluntary adherence to IMMAA protocol since the organisation's establishment in April 2016 proves the commitment of Ireland's MMA leaders to establishing appropriate governance and safety standards in the sport of MMA, against all odds and in the face of opposition," said Mr Kavanagh.