Today, Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport emphasised the importance of promoters of extreme combat sports events taking all necessary safety precautions and providing appropriate medical services, in the interests of participants’ safety and wellbeing. This applies to all such events, including those which are promoted as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events. An MMA event, which is being advertised online, is planned to be held in Trim, county Meath on Saturday, 29 September.
In February 2018, the jury at the Dublin Coroner’s Court inquest into the death of Mr Joao Carvalho returned a verdict of death by misadventure and made a number of recommendations in order to reduce the risk of death or serious injury at extreme combat sports events. The Mixed Martial Arts community have responded to the jury’s findings by embarking on a process towards the establishment of an appropriate governing body for MMA which could ultimately be recognised by Sport Ireland, the Government agency responsible for the promotion of sport in Ireland.
Until such time as a National Governing Body is established and recognised, leaders of the MMA community have repeatedly indicated that they will continue to adhere to the highest safety standards including: a database of participants’ medical status; MMA events using only participants registered on such a database; acceptance of and adherence to medically supervised suspensions; verifiable processes for taking medical examinations and confirming results. Such examinations would be appropriate to the level of risk involved in an event (e.g. periodic medical examinations, periodic blood tests, pre-event and post-event medical examinations, and periodic brain scans).
Minister Ross said “It has been suggested to me that this may be the first MMA event to be held in Ireland without all of these important minimum safety precautions since the tragic passing of Joao Carvalho, almost 2 and a half years ago. I find it deeply troubling that any event promoter could contemplate running an event which would expose the participants to an unacceptable level of risk and injury. While I don’t have the authority to stop this event I do ask the event promoters to consider cancelling it if they cannot implement these basic precautions in full.”
With regards to MMA events, the MMA community have publicly affirmed their commitment to ensuring that all necessary precautions are taken, including appropriately qualified paramedics being in attendance, ambulance services being present, intubation facilities being available and other relevant measures.
Unfortunately, the passing of Joao Carvalho highlights that lives are at risk at MMA and other extreme combat sports events. For MMA events, adherence to the high safety standards adopted by the leaders of the MMA community is vitally important in the interregnum to the establishment of a governing body. Event promoters and their insurance service providers will need to continue to be mindful of their responsibility for participants’ safety and liability should an event lead to a serious injury or fatality.
The Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport called on promoters at MMA and other extreme combat sports events to ensure that appropriate medical services are in place and that all necessary steps are taken to protect participants. He also called on the owners of premises hosting such events and insurance providers to ensure that promoters take every possible precaution to minimise injury and prevent further fatalities. The Minister also encouraged the MMA community to expedite the process to formalise appropriately stringent safety standards through the establishment of a recognised governing body for MMA in Ireland.
Minister Ross concluded by saying “The safety of participants at this and similar events must be the overriding concern. I call on the event promoters to exercise their responsibilities with this in mind.”