- LONDON CALLING: GOVERNING BODIES IN THE U.K.

April 11, 2007
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Editorial Column by Lee Whitehead – MMAWeekly.com
April is proving to be an excellent month for MMA, I don’t think fans have ever had it so good with both the UFC and Cage Rage on the same day and Cage Warriors following hot on their heels on the 28th with Enter the Roughhouse.

There is a genuine buzz surrounding the sport here in the UK, mainstream papers are all over it, there are posters everywhere, there has been a lot of talk on the radio shows, the internet is buzzing, its all good… obviously this will have a filter effect into the smaller shows as well, and thus to the broad subject of this article: Governing Bodies.

There are new promotions popping up every weekend at the moment and you would think that is a good thing, but sadly not. It appears that many of these shows are splashing around a bit more cash than some of the established events on purses in order to attract decent names. The problem being is that they are skimping on production values and more importantly on key resources such as medicals and security. This is unacceptable from a fighter safety point of view, but also considering that the “name” fighters may be matched to slightly lesser qualified talent means that proper medical attention is an essential requirement, not a luxury. Yes, it’s a sport, but it’s a combat sport after all and injuries are par for the course.

Think of it from another angle, say “name fighter A” usually fights for £1,000 and a small upstart promotion offers him £1,400. Then he will more than likely take the fight, destroy his opponent and come back to his usual established organization demanding more money, but without looking at the bigger picture of all the fringe elements such as hotel rooms, medicals, travel and sustenance. A smaller show cannot offer the career progression or established routes to the big shows and as such you’re in a situation where cards are changed last minute due to better financial offers elsewhere. A double negative if you will.

So what can be done? A national governing body would be ideal and, to a certain degree, I think that might be what the UFC will be aiming at, as I know they have been talking to the UK boxing governing body with regards to regulations. But at present, we don’t have the sport monitoring that the US has. I think it will only be a matter of time before this develops and takes hold, I just hope that someone doesn’t get seriously hurt before a change in the proceedings.

In addition to ensuring correct medical supervision and assessments at the fights, a governing body would also be able to provide legitimacy to a promotion falling in line with the procedures and avoiding situations such as those faced by Cage Warriors by idiots in the local councils. A promotion would be able to say here are my credentials, we have this medical team and these are the common unified rules we adopt.

Talking of rules, they differ slightly from organization to organization, with Pro, Semi-Pro and B-Class Pro all the way to Fight First and their funky Vale-Tudo style rules of old with stomps, elbows, soccer kicks and so on.

Cage Rage rules are actually pretty close to the UFC rules as it is already, so are Cage Warriors and FX3 to name a few – Cage Rage in particular differ with the open guard rule whereby a standing fighter can jump and land on his opponents head and/or stomp and soccer kick providing the referee has called the open guard and that the downed opponent is 1 meter away from the fencing (there is a line inside the cage to indicate this).

B-Class pro rules are essentially Pro rules but with heel-hooks and elbows on the ground omitted, this provides a useful chance for fighters to undertake Pro level fights without taking too much damage. A good idea in theory, but in practice can get a little confusing to the spectator, case in point being several people I spoke to at the recent FX3 card.

Even more confusing is the variation between amateur rules in the UK. UWC hold amateur matches on their main card and essentially restrict the fighter from any form of headshots standing or grounded, so kicks and knees aplenty when on your feet and then loads of body ground n’ pound with the regulation 4-ounce gloves.

Sol Gilbert’s ZT FightSkool amateur tournament by contrast, allows you to strike to the head standing and grounded but you’re wearing 8-ounce Sparmaster style gloves and shin pads; neck cranks, heel-hooks and any elbows are disallowed.

Finally, Marc Goddard’s AMMA promotion lets you fight with 8-ounce gloves, no shin pads, but no strikes to the head of a grounded opponent, no spine locks, crucifix or neck cranks.

Why are we talking amateur fights? Well, because with so many other promotions popping up running cards without vetting or considering the skill levels involved, we are seeing guys who should be cutting their teeth on amateur shows getting smashed to smithereens by a pro-opponent with an experience advantage – moral: the sooner we get a governing body the better! As I recall, a Vernon White fight was changed in the US because of the experience mismatch in the IFL recently, I believe it was a CSAC ruling…

Finally… Steroids. Yup, no performance enhancing drug tests are run here in the UK. This is probably why you can see fighters in the UK who are serving Steroid related suspensions in the US – Kimo *ahem* Belfort *cough*

What about UK fighters? Sure, there are temptations available. I am not accusing anyone of actually using these means, but I am saying that should that be the case, it would go undetected due to the lack of testing. That is something I believe needs to be addressed pretty sharply because otherwise, we might end up seeing guys jumping up to international level and coming unstuck at the first hurdle via drug offences. We really don’t need that when all eyes are on the sport and it’s detractors are looking for ammunition…

Are you involved in the UK scene? What is your take on this? Agree or disagree with a governing body? Drop me a line with your views via leewhitehead@mmaweekly.com.

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