Amateur combat sports — including judo, boxing, wrestling and taekwondo — will be able to resume starting on Wednesday, the Quebec government has announced.
Though most other amateur sports in the province were allowed to resume earlier this summer, combat sport enthusiasts had to wait while the government drafted new rules for them.
"The deconfinement of sports in Quebec has gone very well so far, and I am confident that with this new phase and with everyone's collaboration, the situation will remain under control," said Isabelle Charest, the minister responsible for sports.
Athletes will be able to start fighting as long as their gym or sports club has submitted a risk management plan to the province. They will be required to sign a consent form, acknowledging the risks associated with practicing combat sports amid a pandemic.
The new rules also require gyms to implement a 'bubbling' system, which entails training groups of no more than four athletes, who will fight and train with one another throughout the season.
Athletes will also have to maintain a physical distance from one another until they are warming up or squaring off.
They are also asked to respect health guidelines outside the gym, in order to minimize the risk to their training partners.
"I am convinced that athletes will be delighted and that they will respect the established rules so that everyone can practice their discipline in complete safety," Charest said.
Province considering resuming professional matches
While professional athletes are not yet allowed to compete in ticketed competitions, a plan to resume those events will be announced in the coming days, provincial authorities said Tuesday.
Government officials said they are still weighing various factors, such as whether the public will be allowed to attend and what protocols international fighters will have to follow.
Otis Grant, a former world middleweight champion who now owns Grant Brothers Boxing gym in Dollard-des-Ormeaux, says the pandemic has hit the professional boxing community hard.
"I know there are some promoters who have guys on contract. They have got to have them fight, or they can be at risk of losing their fighters," Grant said.
"In this situation that we're in, everybody's hands are tied."
Richard Ho, head coach at H2O MMA, a mixed-martial arts gym in Ville-Emard, said he's excited the professional fighters he works with will finally be able to train with each other.
"I can't wait. I think my athletes will be super happy to be able to do their profession, and hopefully make some paychecks so they can live," Ho said.