With new standards in place, local Irish MMA promotions will need to step up their game to meet the requirements
Drogheda’s TLT Theatre hosted a landmark event for Irish MMA last Friday, as Cage Legacy Fighting Championships became the first regional promotion to reach IMMAA’s (Irish Mixed Martial Arts Association) health and safety standards for professional MMA bouts.
Since the tragic death of Joao Carvalho in April, it was believed that only international promotions like BAMMA and UFC would be able to achieve the new standards put in place by IMMAA, which require all fighters to have blood work and brain scans, among various other examinations, before competing in the Republic of Ireland.
BAMMA were forced to postpone an event from June to September 10th to fall in line with the new health and safety standards.
UFC hopeful Peter Queally took a unanimous decision victory over Decky Dalton in the main event of Cage Legacy Fight Championship 1 in what was the first professional fight hosted by a regional event in the Republic of Ireland since Carvalho’s passing.
According to Cage Legacy promoter Declan Kenna, the new safety standards have made it more difficult to put on professional contests in the Republic of Ireland.
"It’s a lot more difficult to put on professional bouts because of the Safe MMA criteria," explained Cage Legacy promoter Declan Kenna.
"The fighters need brain scans, eye tests, blood tests, pre-fight checks and post-fight checks – and that’s a lot compared to what they used to need to compete.
Image: Dave Fogarty
"It’s definitely a good thing for the sport. The fighters' safety is the most important thing, but there is a lot more work involved in putting professional fights together."
An hour before the event took place, the new standards were already showing their effects, as 2015 amateur world champion Frans Mlambo was removed from the card for precautionary reasons. Kenna claimed that although Mlambo was a big name to lose, fighter safety must come first.
"That was a blow for us, definitely, but we can’t take any chances with the safety of a fighter," he said. "If something shows up on the medical or the medical report fails to come back to us, the fighter can’t compete."
The promotion plans to roll out events all over the Emerald Isle in 2017, keeping their ‘Fight Night’ cards exclusive to amateur competitors and their numbered events for pro bouts.
"All of the other regional MMA shows usually stick to the same county, but we feel like that just gives the fans the same thing each time. We want local talent specific to the areas where we are hosting the shows."
Code Blue, event medical support, were on hand to oversee the action last Friday night and advanced paramedic Glen Ellis confirmed that the medical standards of Cage Legacy fell in line with the standards that are usually upheld by market leaders UFC and BAMMA.
Image: Dave Fogarty
"We had a full regimented consultancy with two advanced paramedics in our team on Friday night," confirmed Ellis. "On site, we had a full emergency resuscitation room, which gave us the ability to put someone in an induced comma if that was needed."
IMMAA’s Sport Ireland Liaison Officer, Barry Oglesby, attended the milestone event last Friday, and believes that Cage Legacy is breaking new ground for the Irish pro scene, which could see other promotions look to do the same thing in the future.
"To see a regional promotion going to the great expense and trouble to put on professional bouts shows other promotions that they can do it too," said Oglesby.
Although Oglesby doesn’t think we’re as close to seeing a full professional card booked by a regional promotion as Kenna is, he insisted that the emergence of a new option for professionals in Ireland is a positive thing for the scene.
Image: Dave Fogarty
"I don’t think we will see a regional event in Ireland with a full professional card of Irish fighters for some time," he said. "It’s more likely that we will see events that have a full amateur card with some pro fights at the top of the bill like we saw at Cage Legacy.
"I think this a great sign for the emerging pros in the country. They don’t have to be completely relying on big shows to come to Ireland, and if there are more events like Cage Legacy they won’t be forced to go across the water to get more experience.
"If what Cage Legacy has done can be replicated in the future, by them or any other promotion in the country, it’s an incredibly positive thing for the Irish mixed martial arts scene."
Since Cage Legacy’s first show last Friday, they have announced a series of events that will run in 2017, with several fights already being announced for their second show in Drogheda on February 11th. They have also confirmed another show in Dublin for March 11th and another in Dundalk on April 15th.