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Minister Michael Ring Says He Saw The Dangers Of MMA Coming Down The Tracks

Minister Michael Ring Says He Saw The Dangers Of MMA Coming Down The Tracks
By Conor Neville Updated

Michael Ring, the Minister for State for Tourism and Sport, appeared on Off the Ball this evening to discuss future regulation of MMA in Ireland following the tragic death of Joao Carvalho.

In a testy exchange with presenter Joe Molloy, Ring said he had long concerns about this 'new sport' and said that he had personally envisioned an incident like this coming down the tracks.

He said he had previously written to 17 different organisations involved in running MMA events around the country, saying he expected the same kind of safety standards as apply in other sports.

I have to put my own record on the line here as well. On the 20th of February 2014, before this event ever happened, I wrote to 17 organisations and these were commercial operators that were running for profit events in Ireland.

I wrote to the 17 of them and I outlined to them that I expected the same kind of safety standards that existed for other sports such as rugby, horse racing and professional boxing. I am concerned and I have been concerned. And I've been concerned about the growth of this sport and the way that it's unregulated. Of course, this needs to be regulated.

Ring asserted on numerous occasions during the interview that he not a fan of MMA.

I want to make this quite clear. I personally wouldn't be the biggest fan of this sport. They know that. I've made that clear to them. But at the same time, this sport is taking place. There's a great interest in this sport. There's a lot of people going to these events. And there has to be some regulation put in place.

On regulation, Ring's essential message is blunt. He has little power to intervene at the moment as there is no national body governing the sport in this country. The events in question are run by private commercial operators.

Molloy alluded to the numerous different organisations - with bombastic names like 'Battle Zone', 'Primal Fighting Championship' 'Fight Pit' - that are running fight nights around the country.

MMA is not recognised by the Sports Council. According to Ring, this was because the sport had not looked for recognition from the Sports Council and that there was national body governing the sport here.

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Essentially, there is no FAI equivalent governing MMA in Ireland.

The situation is this is not a recognised sport. It hasn't been recognised by the Sports Council. It hasn't been funded...

It's a new phenomenon that is after taking off. It's yourselves in the media that has built up this sport. Sky Sports and others have built it up.

They have never looked for recognition. There is no national government body. There's no local government body. It's a new sport that has taken off but it's something now that I will be asking the Sports Council to take a look at to see what we do to regulate it.

We don't have any great control of any kind of sport in this country, except if they want funding from the State. If they are looking for funding from the state, there has to be a national governing body. There has to be rules, regulations. There has to be different organisations set up and they have to live within the law of the land. 

This new sport. It's a new phenomenon that has come into this country and it has come in very quickly...

 

Molloy pointed to the existence of the Irish Amateur Pankration Association (IAPA), which was founded in 2014 with the ambition of "creating a framework where Irish Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), and its associate clubs, coaches & fighters, would become recognised as a legitimate sport in Ireland…under the all-encompassing umbrella of the Irish Sporting Council."

John Kavanagh is the current chairman of the Irish Amateur Pankration Association.

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Ring appeared uncertain as to whether he had met with that exact organisation (though he had not met Kavanagh) but said that he had met with bodies involved with the running of MMA. However, it hadn't progressed as far as them joining the Sports Council. This, Ring said, was a matter for the Sports Council. His office provided the funding but the Sports Council was an independent body.

Ring asserted that he had expressed concerns to the Sports Council about another MMA event that had been organised in Ireland.

In fact I contacted John Treacy three weeks ago in relation to another event that was taking place and I was quite concerned about that event being held in a stadium in this country. And I asked that he'd contact the operators of that stadium and that he make it quite clear to them the standards that are expected of them.

I have concerns, grave concerns. And I did predict something like what happened this week, would happen, and it did happen.

Ring said he had done his best to prevent this happening.

You really trying to blame me for this. I've done my best. I saw this coming down the line before you or anybody else. I wrote to these operators and I told them I expected them to have the same standards as every other sport in the country. I actually saw the dangers of this sport coming as Minister and I did my best to try and do something about it.

It has been pointed out that, notwithstanding Ring's prophecy about the dangers of the sport, he had previously spoken approvingly to the Star about the possibility of McGregor fighting in Croker.

He has been an inspiration and it is a sport that has really taken off here.

If he wanted to defend his title in Ireland, I would like to see him in Croke Park or any other stadium that is available.

It’s not for me to tell him where to have his fights but he’s a major attraction, and an internationally known star and if he wants to defend his title in Ireland then I would have absolutely no problem with it.

Ring also offered his condolences to the Carvalho family.

Listen below:

 

Read more: What Went Wrong At The Total Extreme Fighting Event Saturday Night At The National Stadium?

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