Peter Caroll: With regulation coming, BAMMA 26 is a necessary sacrifice for Irish MMA's future

Chris Fields whose fight was among those pulled also shares his opinion

BAMMA 22, Chris Fields

Chris Fields lands an elbow at BAMMA 22 ©INPHO/Gary Carr

BAMMA 26 have postponed their June 4th event in the 3 Arena due to new regulations they are putting in place following the tragic death of Joao Carvalho after he contested an MMA bout at TEF 1 at The National Stadium in Dublin.

David Green, CEO of BAMMA, claimed that the event would take place on September 10 instead, as the promotion look to introduce mandatory brain scans for all of their competitors. As Carvalho’s death was brought about by brain trauma, such scans would stop any fighters competing that have any pre-existing issues before they took to the cage.

"We have taken the step to introduce mandatory MRI/MRA scans for all of our fighters for the BAMMA 26 event onwards."

He added: "In order to be certain that we can implement these new scans across all fighters, we have taken the decision to move the event back a few months. We do not take this decision lightly and apologise for the inconvenience to BAMMA fans."

Following Carvalho’s death, the conversation about the regulation of mixed martial arts in Ireland began. Sport Ireland has since met with representatives from the IAPA (Irish Amateur Pankration Association) and IMMAF (International Mixed Martial Arts Federation) to discuss the regulation of the sport in the future.

Sources close to Irish MMA’s battle for regulation have revealed that eventually all professional MMA events will have to follow the protocol of professional boxing promotions and large MMA promotions like UFC and now BAMMA, who have mandatory scans in place for their athletes. However, there is no ban currently in place that will stop any events that do not have safety regulations in place like BAMMA.

Following BAMMA’s announcement, IMMAF CEO Densign White commended BAMMA and stated that the promotion "sets a good example for the rest of the industry to follow". He also revealed that BAMMA engaged with IMMAF’s medical team and with the national organizations in both the UK and Ireland before they made their decision.

"We commend and support this proactive decision that BAMMA has taken in the interests of athlete safety. Choosing to put safety before profit is unusual.

"In engaging with IMMAF’s medical committee lead, with national federations in Ireland and the UK and with their medical advisory Safe MMA, BAMMA sets a good example for the rest of the industry to follow. This kind of cooperation and partnership in event management is precisely what's needed to move the sport of MMA forward."

Sacrifice

BAMMA 26 was one of the most anticipated cards in the history of Irish MMA outside of UFC. With former European promotional powerhouse Cage Warriors returning from their hiatus last month, BAMMA may be in danger of losing some ground to their fellow promoters as they take a step back to implement their regulations.

The card has also suffered a casualty due to its postponement as Bellator-bound James Gallagher will no longer get a final bout with BAMMA before he takes up his spot on the American promotion's roster.

Fighters who are contracted to BAMMA will be forced to sit out the three months, which is a long time, particularly in the case of fledgling pros. Chris Fields was set to fight for Paul Craig’s light-heavyweight title on the night, and even though he won’t get the chance to win the belt until September, he maintains that BAMMA’s decision is "a good call for the sport in the long run."

"It’s gut-wrenching to hear that the fight is being pulled," said Fields. "I’ve spent a lot of time away from my family and my friends, and I've had a lot of hard sparring rounds to prepare for this fight. Despite all of that, I do think it's a good call for the sport in the long run.

"Realistically, all professional fighters should be getting scanned. Of course, it’s irritating that these regulations have come in place just before my title fight, but we’ll get to do it all again in September.

"I’ve wanted these kinds of precautions in place for a long time so I can’t complain that it’s coming in now, just because it’s affecting me. You’ve got to be thinking about 50 years down the line, and if all fighters are getting these head scans it’s going to save so much hassle for everyone.

Chris Fields ©INPHO/Gary Carr

"In a lot of cases fighters have no idea that they have anything wrong with them before they compete. This will rule those fighters out of competing."

Fields also pointed out that because of the cost of getting scans, which is roughly €380 per fighter, we could see an influx of all-amateur shows in the country.

"A boxing promoter can’t put on a pro boxing fight in Ireland without having their fighters scanned and I don’t see why that should be any different for MMA. There’s been a bit of a trend of putting on all-amateur cards in Ireland because casual fans can’t tell the difference between the levels.

"These competitors don't get paid and, like in amateur boxing, there is no mandatory scans in place. I think if these regulations are brought in across the board it could mean that there will be a lot less pro fights in Ireland going forward."

The pro scene in Ireland could very well dry up if the regulations taken on by BAMMA are put in place for all promoters putting shows on in Ireland. However, with less risk involved for the fighters with the scans in place, it is very likely that some athletes will be saved a lot of suffering if they are flagged before they take to the cage.