On Tuesday the 29th of March, 2016, the Irish Amateur Pankration Association, which represents MMA in the Republic of Ireland, held a committee meeting in regards to tightening safety regulation for events held in the country. The meeting was attended by officers Deano Wade, Paul Cowzer, Andy Ryan and John Kavanagh.
New Health and Safety Regulations in Irish Mixed Martial Arts
The issues addressed were the ‘Standards of Medical Care at IAPA sanctioned Events’ for both amateur and professional, ‘Age Limitations for different types of MMA competition’ and the ‘IAPA’s stance with regards to ‘Hybrid Shows’.
For commercial amateur shows, the newly-introduced standard medical care at an IAPA sanctioned event requires two doctors at cage side along with a paramedic crew. For professional bouts, two doctors to be available cage side for up to 12 fights, with an extra doctor for every 6 fights after that. Professional events must also include an advance care ambulance and a medical treatment room.
Speaking on Obviously Fight Talk podcast on Sunday, IAPA official Paul Cowzer spoke about the process in developing the new health and safety regulations.
“It’s been going on for years really. We have been trying to up the standards,” he said. “This has been a major breakthrough.”
Cowzer, who has had nine professional MMA bouts, is the head coach of Rush Fight Academy in Dublin. On top of that, he is also the promoter of ‘Rumble in Rush’, an amateur event. He spoke about how different promoters had their own way of doing things prior to the new regulations.
“Every show had their own sort of standards,” he said. “Like I said, we have been improving things – every show. So say from the first shows [in Ireland] the standards would have been a lot lower. It’s increasing at a rapid rate. I think the standard would have been that you would have had a doctor, pretty much up until recently, but now the two doctors are making it a bit more safe.”
As a promoter himself, Cowzer was questioned about how the new regulations would affect a show financially. The approximate cost of the required safety measures for an amateur event, like Cowzer’s, was estimated to be in the region of €900. For him, it’s not a big change.
“No. It wouldn’t really, to be honest with you,” he stated. “Because the ambulance set-up would have been €500-600 anyway, and then the doctor was possibly up to that again.”
Although the new regulation might not affect Cowzer himself, he does think that it could affect the professional ranks.
“It will affect some the pro shows,” he said. “Say you’ve got 17-18 fights on, you’re going to have to spend that bit extra, but at the end of the day if you’ve got more fights on technically you’re going to have more spectators there to come and support them fighters. So they’re going to have to balance out their income – what they take in and what they spend – but either way fighter safety is paramount.”
The ‘Caged’ Muay Thai Debate
Safety regulation for IAPA sanctioned events wasn’t the only area addressed at the meeting. The IAPA confirmed their official stance on “Hybrid Shows”, which has been a contentious subject between the MMA and Muay Thai community. It is now officially stated that the IAPA “does not support or sanction shows that have K1 or Muay Thai fights in MMA gloves”. Furthermore they concluded that these fights “must be fought under standard K1 or Muay Thai rules with correct boxing style gloves and internationally agreed upon rules sets”.
One of the most recent debates between the MMA and Muay Thai community stemmed from an article published by The Irish Times. Neurologist Prof Dan Healy, who has worked with SAFE MMA, called for the March 26th Cage Kings ‘Caged Thai’ event to be postponed due to fighter safety concerns. According to the article, the promoters of the event, which ran as planned, said they had agreed to meet Prof Healy to discuss his concerns. However, Prof Healy said he “declined this meeting as his pre-condition that the event be postponed if the appropriate medical supervision was not shown to be in place was rejected”.
The former boxer Cowzer commented on the Neurologist’s actions and comments and cleared up some of the misconceptions on why the IAPA are non-supportive of these events, stating that it’s more of an aesthetic issue rather than a health and safety issue.
“Our stance has nothing got to do with the doctor’s stance. They’re totally separate issues. We don’t have a problem with hybrid shows,” he stated. “The problem we have is that when Thai Boxing is going on, and people are thinking its MMA,” he said. “And there are big stories and pictures in the paper, and you’ve got Thai Boxers all bust up, and we’re getting the bad wrap for it.”