Combative sports ban could be lifted by city council next week

Combative sports ban could be lifted by city council next week

City council may soon lift the ban on combative sports in Edmonton, which fighters and promoters say has hurt their livelihoods.

The Edmonton Combative Sports Commission told a community and public services meeting Wednesday that they've started putting formal policies in place to ensure fighters are safer.

Policies include giving promoters access to databases, so they can check competitors' backgrounds and recent fights.

Melanie Lubovac, president of KO Boxing, said many of the policies were already in place and the sports commission is now formalizing them.

"My main concern is fighter safety," she said following a meeting Wednesday at city hall.

"I don't think that putting more of an onus on us is going to make me think any differently. I think we do that as an industry anyway."

However, a report prepared by MNP Consulting and released in mid-December showed many policies weren't followed the night fighter Tim Hague was knocked out in the ring in Edmonton. Hague died two days later.

On Dec. 8, city council agreed to ban combative sports pending that report, which included 18 recommendations to improve fighter safety.

The mayor and council now seem satisfied those policies are getting more attention.

On Wednesday, Mayor Don Iveson said combative sports promoters and the commission have made progress since December.

"I think we're in a position to let the industry get back to business," he said.

At a meeting Jan. 17, more than a dozen people from the combat sports community, fighters and promoters, turned out to the city council public hearing to talk about how the ban has eaten away at their livelihoods.

Councillors agreed Wednesday to discuss lifting the moratorium next week.

If council votes next Tuesday to reverse the ban, eight-time world boxing champion Jelena Mrdjenovich said she could fight her 50th match in her home city. 

"I've spent my entire career being a proud Edmontonian," she said. "I would like to have my 50th fight here."

It's a milestone she said she wants to share "with the city that made me."

If council agrees to lift the ban, Mrdjenovich is scheduled to step into the ring at the Shaw Conference Centre on April 28.