Calgary Combative Sports Commission to regulate professional fighting giant July 21

When Ultimate Fighting Championship President Dana White announced the first-ever UFC event in Calgary in front of a legion of fans at Flames Central on March 21, his smile could light up the room.

UFC 149 will take place July 21 at the Scotiabank Saddledome and is part of the UFC’s plan to hold three annual events in Canada through to 2014.

White was not supposed to be in Calgary for the conference, but skipped a trip to Los Angeles to announce the event.

“The sport is huge here, it was time to come to Calgary,” White said. “I have never been here before, I wanted to come to this press conference and I am really excited to hold an event here.”

The always charismatic White stood at the podium with a grin on his face and said that this event is one that the spectators do not want to miss.

“You think you like the UFC because you have seen it on television?” White asked. “I know I sound biased when I say this, but it is the most exciting live sporting event you will ever see. Trust me.”

Behind the event is the Calgary Combative Sports Commission, or CCSC, a volunteer-based organization that will sanction it. The commission was established in 1994 by city bylaw to regulate professional combat sports in Calgary. This will be their biggest event to date, with around 20,000 tickets to be available in mid-May — ticket prices have not been announced yet.

What is MMA?

Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA, is a contact sport that uses both striking and grappling techniques. Two fighters enter the ring and fight in five minute rounds.

Fighters can win the fights via:

  • Knockout
  • Submission
  • Referee stoppage, when the fighter is deemed to not be able to defend themselves
  • Decision, when the judges decide who won the fight

“I know I sound biased when I say this, but it is the most exciting live sporting event you will ever see. Trust me.”

– Dana White, UFC President
Commissions like the one in Calgary regulate mixed Martial Arts, or are in the discussion to get regulated across North America with the exception of Alaska and Wyoming in the United States. The sport used to be banned due to its violent nature but because of sanctioned events, it has legitimized itself.

Shirley Stunzi, the chair of the committee, has been involved with the commission since its inception and said she believes that the event will give exposure to the MMA scene in Calgary.

“I think it is a huge shot in the arm for high profiling the city, for high profiling the MMA community and the strong fan base, and the fighters

from the local market,” Stunzi said. “I think it is a huge opportunity for the whole sport in itself.”

Alberta loves a fight

Fighter Mitch Clarke, who fights out of Edmonton, AB, is the first UFC fighter to be born in Saskatchewan. He believes that the event is going to be for more than just Calgary fans and is scheduled to fight Anton Kuivanen at the event.

The UFC will be in Calgary July 21 at the Scotiabank Saddledome. President Dana made the trip up to Calgary to announce the event.
Photo by: Pol Nikulin
“Alberta has loads of fan and there are so many events — Lethbridge, Red Deer, some in Calgary, lots in Edmonton. It is going to be great for the fans especially,” Clarke said at the press conference.

Clarke also notes that Alberta-based fans have a better understanding of the sport.

“What I like about Alberta is that Calgary and Edmonton are good for fans who have a good understanding of the sport,” Clarke said. “They like big slams and submissions. They are educated on the ground game, which is nice to see.”

As of right now the only announced fight is local fighter Nick Ring going up against Utah-based fighter Court McGee, while featherweight division champion Jose Aldo will defend his belt versus an unnamed opponent.

Safety first

Stunzi worked with the UFC’s Director of Canadian Operations Tom Wright to get the event off of the ground in Calgary, as no combat sports events can take place in the city without the Calgary commission residing over them.

“We take great pride and respect in working with all the regulatory bodies,” Wright said. “To ensure that the sport is properly regulated, and that the safety of the athletes is first and foremost.”

Safety is the first concern of Stunzi’s commission as well. As with any sport, the commission looks to get the safest conditions for the athletes competing. No fights begin without a doctor at ringside in case of a serious injury and medicals are done after every fight.

{igallery id=2977|cid=60|pid=1|type=category|children=0|showmenu=0|tags=|limit=0}

Fighters are “medically suspended” after every fight until their bodies heal from competition.

“Our focus is always the safety and well-being of the athlete. The prime reason for being there is to make sure that rules are followed, that really good officials are hired, that I hire the best doctors,” Stunzi said.

She also said she believes in giving combat sport athletes a chance to perform their skills, the same way that any other athlete would.

“I believe in the sport, I believe in the opportunity for any athlete to pursue their dream in a safe environment. It is no different to me if the young person wants to play junior hockey, or minor league baseball,”

Stunzi said. “They have a safe environment within the sport regulated component of the amateur side to be able to pursue their dream.”

Meanwhile, Wright said he thinks that the codes and systems of individual martial arts are what drives the competition and believes the sport is much safer than some give it credit for.

“At its roots our sport is individual martial arts, which are all about honour, respect, discipline, hard work, training.” Wright said. He added that “The sport is safer than boxing, there are less traumatic head injuries than you will find in football or in hockey.”

Stunzi echoed Wright’s statements.

“There is always the option to tap. It’s not like they have to continue to stay in there and continue to take the beating,” Stunzi said.

pnikulin@cjournal.ca