Mixed Martial Arts in Canada – What Is the Risk?


Mixed martial arts are a sport with over a 100-year modern tradition. Its rules allow a wide variety of combat techniques to be applied in a single match. Thus, martial artists with different backgrounds can fight each other in the ring. This sport is full-contact and can be traced all the way back to ancient Rome.

Lately, doctors had something to say about this during the Canadian Medical Association’s general annual meeting in Niagara Falls. The doctors overwhelmingly expressed the opinion that this sport should be outlawed. Their arguments are that MMA is a dangerous sport with a large probability of injuries – much larger than boxing, for example.

As said by Dr. Ian Gillespie, the president of British Columbia Medical Association, “MMA fighting, like boxing, is distinct from many other sports in that the basic intent of the fighter is to cause harm in order to incapacitate his or her opponent.” He adds that the “various techniques […] aren’t limited to punching, and there may be the presence of fewer safety rules.”

The British Medical Association also expressed their worries with regards to MMA early in 2009 and are actively campaigning to ban the sport in Britain. They, too, argue that the sport tends to get excessively brutal and violent.

In an article from the opposite camp, WatchKalibRun.com expresses

their opinions on the British Medical Association’s arguments. They note that there are limited or no statistics available by the British and point to an American study which found that injury and knock-out rates in MMA are comparable to those of other fighting sports.

The Hamilton Spectator asked two MMA experts – a fighter and a coach – about their take on the issue. They say that there is less protection in MMA than there is in boxing, the rules are more benevolent and there are fewer regulations overall. Unlike in boxing, the target of a strike is not confined to the head and the torso in MMA, which makes room for more kinds of injuries, although it possibly decreases the relative occurrence of head traumas. In general, both experts are calling for the introduction of standardized procedures across Canada instead of per-province regulations.


So why do the Canadian doctors rise up now? It’s because only a few weeks ago (in August 2010), Ontario government decided to make the sport legal in the province. Two organizations – the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and Warrior One (W1) – already have business plans to develop activities in Toronto and other prominent locations. Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty decided to allow the sport, but insists on close scrutiny of all events and strict rules.

Nevertheless, doctors argue that there are hardly ever trained professionals at the matches and even if there were, it would be unthinkable for them to watch the ongoing injuries with a clear conscience. Traditional martial artists argue that the sport denies the original values of martial arts, which lie in respect, self-control, courtesy and discipline.

According to CTV, Dr. Shelby Karpman points out that due to the sport’s popularity, outlawing it would not prevent matches from taking place ‘underground’. However, medical supervision would not be enforceable and thus the fighters would be exposed to less care, which in turn equals even more danger.


Therefore, it appears that if the sport cannot be banned, it should at least be officially regulated and adherence to rules should be controlled. This means that there should be appropriate medical support, licensing, insurance and preventive measures in place during every match.

Just in case you were wondering, extreme sports such as MMA are a special case for life insurance. Not every company will want to insure you if you perform this or a similar extreme sport, and those who will are going to charge you a substantially higher premium. The resulting surcharge is going to depend on the amount of risk you are facing in your sport. A fighter should pay utmost attention to any exclusions and caveats in the policy and should make sure that the combat takes place at a licensed event. Illegal fights will not be covered by any insurer.

However, life insurance alone is not sufficient for an extreme fighter. This is because a fighter will likely cause bodily harm to his or her opponent and will therefore be liable for all associated compensations. In addition to the host of the match, each fighter should have a liability insurance coverage of his or her own. For liability insurance, it also applies that the combat should be a part of a licensed and supervised event and is subject to any exclusions in the policy.

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