UFC referee Marc Goddard, a former professional heavyweight on the UK MMA circuit, is backing a new drive in Britain to get professional fighters registered with a body that will require them to undertake bllod work and other checks.
There is no athletic commission in the UK and so there is no regulation of professional fights and fighters. Everyone from the fighters themselves to the ringside officials and medics are booked by the promoter - and that can mean that the interests of the fighter aren’t always put first.
For example, a fighter who suffered a recent knockout would be under suspension in the US but in the UK, he could fight every weekend and as long as he sells tickets, the promoters will be happy to use him. (I personally know of at least one fighter who is banned by the ISKA kickboxing association from further competition, ever, but still fights on MMA shows).
Goddard said today, “I am very excited and personally thrilled at the launch of SAFE MMA here in the UK. Since its inception and our initial discussions the goal for me has been clear – to help raise and maintain the safety standards by which Mixed Martial Artists compete here in the UK.
“For me there was simply no other place to start, other than the single most important aspect of MMA competition – the safest possible environment in which fighters can compete. Bringing together the UK’s leading and most established promotions under a single common goal was also a huge personal achievement for me.”
The “leading and most established promotions” that Goddard is referring to are BAMMA, Cage Warriors and Ultimate Challenge (formerly known as Cage Rage). They are some of the oldest, largest and most prominent events in Britain and they have declared that they won’t allow anyone to compete on their show who hasn’t signed up with SAFE MMA and undergone the blood work and medicals.
Today the Liverpool promotion OMMAC also added its name to the list.
SAFE MMA is being operated as a not-for-profit organisation by the Centre of Health and Human Performance at 76 Harley Street, London. It says it will provide “a secure, centralised and confidential database for fighter medical records; and coordinate affordable, standardised blood and medical tests for all registered fighters.”
The body has also given out the prices that registration will cost - and it is here that it may fall down. The nominal annual registration fees for fighters is £235 plus the cost of a doctor’s medical, gyms are to be charged between £60 and £240 (it isn’t clear for what) and promotions will pay £600. These fees are all annual but in the low-earning world of UK MMA, they aren’t going to be popular.
And so SAFE MMA could well find itself running into the same problems that have faced other attempts to form governing bodies and quasi-athletic commissions in the UK - if participation isn’t mandatory, people might not want to pay. But these questions and more will be addressed at an upcoming press conference. Stay tuned to Fighters Only.