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Irish MMA Association issues strong response to 'misinformation' from Minister Shane Ross

IMMAA’s John Kavanagh has released a comprehensive statement.

THE PRESIDENT OF the organisation which oversees mixed martial arts in Ireland has hit back at Shane Ross’s claim that “MMA leaders here are deliberately dragging their feet” regarding the establishment of an Irish governing body to implement the highest possible safety standards for the sport.

Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, was speaking following an inquest into the death of Portuguese fighter Joao Carvalho, who lost his life in April 2016 as a result of injuries he sustained while competing in a bout in Dublin.

Shane Ross TD Shane Ross, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

“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,” Shane Ross said. “Sport Ireland stands ready to help but can only help if you are willing to ask, and if you are willing to do the right thing.”

However, in a statement released this evening, IMMAA president John Kavanagh responded strongly to those comments. In detailing the changes that have been made to MMA’s safety standards in Ireland since Joao Carvalho’s death, Kavanagh explained that an application for recognition by Sport Ireland has already been made by the IMMAA.

“Unfortunately, the Minister’s remarks can only be the result of misinformation,” Kavanagh wrote. “Indeed, IMMAA proactively fulfils its duties as the national governing body for Irish MMA despite lack of official recognition, the main barrier to recognition being administrative.

“When IMMAA (formerly IAPA) applied to Sport Ireland for official recognition in 2016, it was informed as per Sport Ireland procedure that it would need three years of financial transactions before it could be recognised. It is beyond IMMAA’s powers to speed up bureaucratic process or to grant itself legal mandate to enforce its regulations.

“In spite of that, Irish MMA’s 100% voluntary adherence to IMMAA protocol since the organisation’s establishment in April 2016 proves the commitment of Ireland’s MMA leaders to establishing appropriate governance and safety standards in the sport of MMA, against all odds and in the face of opposition.

“Since the tragic passing of Joao Carvalho, every MMA promoter in Ireland has voluntarily worked to implement IMMAA’s stringent safety protocol, which includes the independent, medical pre-clearance services of voluntary organisation, Safe MMA. This can be demonstrated by medical records from all those events. In addition, all events have been commissioned and officiated by IMMAA officials to ensure safety standards are adhered to.

John Kavanagh IMMAA president John Kavanagh. Source: Gary Carr/INPHO

“It is worth noting that IMMAA’s amateur MMA safety standards already far exceed those of any other amateur martial art/combat sport, and our professional requirements are comparable with those of professional boxing.

“The third-party medical pre-clearance and advisory services implemented by IMMAA are unique in sport; and Irish MMA under IMMAA can reasonably boast the most advanced medical protocols in the world for MMA, which it has sustained for over 18 months without any legal mandate. International promoters holding arena events in Ireland have also complied with the standards set and adopted by the Irish MMA community under IMMAA.”

Kavanagh added: “Minister, IMMAA fully agrees with you that the recognition and regulation of MMA should not take so long, and we would welcome a meeting to discuss how the protection and governance of MMA’s participants can be most quickly progressed in Ireland.”

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Paul Dollery

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