Sports Minister labels lack of national safety standards for MMA 'unacceptable'

MMA associations are not prevented from hosting fights despite the lack of a national governing body

Sports Minister labels lack of national safety standards for MMA 'unacceptable'

Image: Gregory Payan / AP/Press Association Images

The Sports Minister has accused mixed martial arts groups of “deliberately dragging their feet” on introducing adequate governance and safety standards.

Shane Ross was speaking after an inquest into the death of a 28-year-old fighter found that he suffered 41 blows to the head before his fight was stopped.

Joao Carvalho died after a Total Extreme Fighting bout at the National Stadium in April 2016.

The inquest heard that he was rushed to hospital unsecured on the floor of an ambulance, with a blockage in his airways.

Concerns were raised over the presence of suitably qualified medical personnel at the event.

Returning a verdict of death by misadventure, the Coroner’s Court recommended the establishment and endorsement of a national governing body for MMA in Ireland.

The jury called for nationally qualified paramedics to be used by all medical partners and for MMA Ireland to adopts Boxing safety standards in the short term.

Joao Carvalho

In a statement this morning, Minister Ross said the absence of a National Governing Body (NGB) for MMA in Ireland is “unacceptable.” 

“It appears to me that MMA leaders here in Ireland are deliberately dragging their feet on the establishment of appropriate governance and safety standards,” he said

“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.”

He claimed Sport Ireland “can only help if you are willing to ask, and if you are willing to do the right thing.”

He noted that all sporting organisations in Ireland are autonomous and self-governing, adding that it is “absolutely crucial that the sports bodies do everything they can to protect the safety and welfare of their members.”

Sports Minister Shane Ross

On Newstalk Breakfast this morning, a group providing medical supports for major events insisted there have been major improvements since Mr Carvalho’s death.

Glen Ellis from Code Blue Medical described some of the supports that are now in place:

“On a professional fight night in the 3Arena – we get about four major promotions a year – you would have four emergency medicine doctors including two consultants,” he said.

“You have a full resuscitation room which carries rapid sequence induction equipment and medications which enable a doctor to place a fighter in coma to secure their airways.”

Junior Minister Damien Green said department officials have been working with Sport Ireland to “encourage” the Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association (IMMAA) to put appropriate governance arrangements into place.

MMA associations are currently not prevented from hosting fights and events despite the lack of a national governing body or standard safety arrangements.