The Minster for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr. Shane Ross, TD, and the Minister with responsibility for Sport, Mr. Brendan Griffin, TD, have called on those in leadership positions within the MMA (Mixed Martial Arts) community in Ireland, to introduce, as speedily as possible, best-practice safety and governance standards.
Noting the recommendations of the Coroners’ Court in the inquest into the death of MMA fighter Joao Carvalho, Minister Ross stated:
“I cannot begin to imagine how painful the passing of Joao Carvalho has been for Mr. Carvalho’s family and in particular his brother, Alexandre, who was at his bedside for his brother’s final moments. Yesterday (8 February), the Coroner returned a verdict of death by misadventure and also made some recommendations. The absence of a National Governing Body (NGB) for MMA in Ireland is unacceptable. All sporting organisations in Ireland are autonomous and self-governing. The Irish Government, through its agency Sport Ireland, works with the sports NGBs, to ensure that high standards of safety and governance are understood and put into place. It is absolutely crucial that the sports bodies do everything they can to protect the safety and welfare of their members.”
Minister Griffin added that he was disappointed with the unacceptably slow pace of progress in the case of MMA. “It is now almost two years since Joao Carvalho’s passing. I am terribly disappointed that there has been so little progress made on establishing appropriate governance arrangements. My officials worked with Sport Ireland to encourage the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) here in Ireland to put appropriate governance arrangements into place. The overwhelming majority of sporting bodies in Ireland have undertaken the hard work, with Sport Ireland, that is required to become recognised as a National Governing Body. Sport Ireland demands excellent standards of governance, child protection and competitor safety, amongst other things, before it will formally recognise a sport. In the case of the IMMAA, we have not seen any sign of the effort required. Despite having made relevant experts available to the IMMAA to explore the possibility of MMA being recognised under the Irish Martial Arts Commission (IMAC, the recognised NGB for several martial arts in Ireland), no real progress has been made.
Minister Ross also said: “It appears to me that MMA leaders here in Ireland are deliberately dragging their feet on the establishment of appropriate governance and safety standards. Today I call on the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) to do the right thing – take the steps that are required to safeguard your fighters and prevent needless injury and loss of life. Sport Ireland stands ready to help but can only help if you are willing to ask, and if you are willing to do the right thing.”
Minister Griffin echoed those sentiments and noted the Coroner’s recommendation that, in the short-term, MMA should adopt safety standards used in professional boxing. He welcomed the actions of Professor Daniel Healy, the Beaumont based neurosurgeon and co-founder of not-for-profit Safe MMA Ireland which was set up for the protection and safety of the Mixed Martial Arts competitors. Minister Griffin said “I commend Professor Dan Healy for his vigilance, at his own personal cost in terms of time and money, in pursuing adequate safety standards for MMA. His persistent efforts have resulted in a major improvement in safety standards at MMA events. I would urge MMA leaders to formalise such safety precautions. Such standards could and should be formally backed by MMA in Ireland through the establishment of a National Governing Body, recognised by Sport Ireland. What is taking so long? Only the IMMAA can answer that.”