On October 3rd, Essex based promotion British Challenge Mixed Martial Arts hosted a significant event in the history of UK MMA.
Delivering to a sell-out audience BCMMA 12 offered as its headliner, Andy Young of Northern Ireland (Next Generation) turning the tables on Luiz Gonzalez (Team Titan) to secure the BCMMA Pro Flyweight title. The match was preceded by the successful return of UFC veteran and Team UK coach, John Maguire, in the co-main against French late replacement, Alexandre Roumette.
The significance of the 19 bout event, however, was not down to its vibrant fight card nor to its buzzing atmosphere, but in the precedent it set in the development of the regulation of MMA in the UK.
In 2013, medical organisation Safe MMA launched its minimum safety guidelines and athlete clearance processes for MMA events, backed by BAMMA and by Cage Warriors. The later emerging United Kingdom Mixed Martial Arts Federation (UKMMAF) launched its shadow-sanctioning programme at the end of last year with Safe MMA guidelines adopted as a minimum medical requirement. The shadow-sanctioning programme involves the UKMMAF working in partnership with promoters towards full independent event regulation in 2016; and is voluntary for promoters, since there is no duty-of-care required from MMA promoters by the government. Notable signees to the programme include the UFC and BAMMA.
While every Pro/ Am show that has taken place in Ireland in 2015 has worked with Safe MMA, many regional UK promoters have been tentative about joining Safe MMA due to the cited cost of hiring qualified doctors and paramedics, and the cost to athletes of covering medical requirements. Likewise, the promoters officially working with the UKMMAF so far, are those of larger, broadcast shows. BCMMA broke new ground this weekend, as a regional show, in both a) fully implementing Safe MMA medical requirements; and b) being the first to be officially commissioned and inspected by the UKMMAF. It was also the first UK event for which UKMMAF has provided all officials, with all referees and lead judge having been trained and licensed by the organisation, including well known domestic names such as Leon Roberts and Marc Woodard. BCMMA 12 additionally provided opportunity for those who have sat the UKMMAF judging certification course to shadow in order to gain first practical experience.
The UKMMAF issued the following statement:
“Many regional shows have been tentative to commit to Safe MMA minimum safety standards, which promoters, gyms and athletes owe to the athlete. BCMMA promoters Jack Mason and Chris Cook have disproved cynics by coming through with flying colours and without fuss in ensuring that their professional fighters have all met basic medical criteria, such as passing a general physical examination and clearing blood tests for viruses that include HIV. They have successfully managed the cost of hiring a fully equipped and qualified doctor led medical team, which is essential to managing any medical emergency. BCMMA 12 is a flagship event in the UK in terms of raising the bar for British MMA in 2015.”
Co-promoter Jack Mason commented:
“BCMMA as a promotion is all about providing fighters with a consistent, solid platform to showcase their skills at a grassroots level whilst they build and progress on their way to the big shows.
“BCMMA are taking an important step forward in working with the UKMMAF and Safe MMA from BCMMA 12 on 3rd October 2015 to ensure we meet our primary focus which is the health and safety of our fighters who put it all on the line when they compete on the show.
“From BCMMA 12 on 3rd October all our Professional MMA fighters will be Safe MMA approved to compete and we will have a full medical team including paramedics, doctor and ambulance on site. We will also be implementing new UKMMAF measures by employing trained, qualified and independent officials (referees, judges and commissioners) to ensure all our fighters receive the best experience and a fair shout when they compete on the show.
“We understand that the extra cost to a young fighter on a grassroots show like BCMMA to become Safe MMA approved can be a challenge so we work with the fighters to make this as easy as possible and truly believe that the health of our fighters is priceless so the extra cost is well worth the small investment.
“Completion of medicals and licencing is also an important part of the sport at the top level so if any fighter has aspirations of making it to the big shows then this is something they will need to get used to as part of the process. It’s worth mentioning also that the cost of obtaining a Safe MMA licence for a Professional MMA athlete is far cheaper than obtaining a Professional Boxing licence for the same peace of mind for the athlete and promoter.
“The benefit of the emergence of the UKMMAF and Safe MMA to the sport of MMA in the UK is huge as this will go a long way to helping the sport become recognised as a professional sport by such bodies as Sport England. It’s also another step forward in the very long journey to establish MMA as a recognised sport and obtaining respect and recognition for our fighters as some of the hardest working athletes in the world.”