Ontario’s Ongoing Fight to Legalize MMA and Muay Thai
By Mike LNg
The fight for legal recognition of Muay Thai in Ontario, Canada is an ongoing one. And an update concerning the state of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and Muay Thai is well overdue. Earlier on in this debate, outgoing Canadian Medical Association president Dr.Anne Doig was quoted as saying, “We are concerned when people engage in activities the sole purpose of which is to pummel, kick, punch, scratch, whatever methods they use, until somebody is seriously hurt or injured, or somebody cries uncle and submits.” From this statement one can see the fight for MMA regulation was not an easy one given the relative squeamishness and frankly ignorance Ontario’s provincial regulators seem to struggle with.
Despite these misgivings ultimately money and the potential of it largely through the Ultimate Fighting Championship company has grown beyond ignoring. Frankly speaking Ontario’s sports stewardship has recognized what it stands to gain economically. In the United States this legal recognition of MMA has translated into extension regulatory coverage and recognition of Muay Thai. Initially this did not appear to translate quite the same with Ontario. From sec 83 of the criminal code there are 2 methods to facilitate local combat sports sanctioning:
1) Through the PSO/NSO/NF model
2) Through direct permission from the Province (not requiring a PSO)
Apparently in Ontario the Muay Thai community has a growing sentiment of not really caring or hinging their hopes on the IOC’s inclusion of Muay Thai. And in fact growing recognition of how little it really does to make Muay Thai ‘accepted’ or legitimate seems to be settling in.To be frank the smarter people in Muay Thai’s community in Ontario have come to realize that (Canadian Muay Thai Council – Amateur) CMTC-A is only trying to expand their sphere of influence. The people of Muay Thai in Ontario are very uncomfortable with its influence in Ontario. And rightly so since in essence a foreign based power will dictate Ontario policy should a PSO ever come to pass. And this movement did in fact have roots both in Calgary and the World Muaythai Council (WMC) and CMTC-A’s Robin Finley who has directly responded to my posts on this very topic on this site. The WMC’s role in this is very ironic since WAMTAC has publicly stated they initially were granted permission to operate under WMC’s umbrella of coverage until days later Stephan Fox reportedly revoked that coverage. Coincidentally CMTC-A based in Calgary where Mike Miles is also the Canadian WMC arm began moving towards pushing Ontario towards the PSO model.
Finley’s explicitly expressed stance was “MT like all other recognized and funded sports needs a national body, with provincial bodies, similar to the Federal/Provincial government structure. Like it or not, this is the only path to legitimacy, recognition and funding for ANY sport in Canada”. In other words CMTC-A pressed for a PSO model of regulation in order to even grant Ontario the right to have regulated Muay Thai fights. Guess who would be helming that PSO organization?
Since that time Ontario has staged a Muay Thai amateur card through World Amateur Muay Thai Association of Canada (WAMTAC). On the surface this may not seem that meaningful until one considers that this was the first event in Ontario of its kind in over 2 years. And in fact this remarkable milestone was underscored by the fact it was successful despite last minute changes to the card. In fact a 2nd event is planned to take place in November.
De facto, the first WAMTAC sanctioned event this is what was found: Muay Thai doesn’t need Calgary’s interference or WMC for Muay Thai events to happen or in fact begin to thrive. In Ontario, it has become apparent that the Crown Prosecutors have no issue with Muay Thai events being organized. WAMTAC’s adherence to safety regulation with insurance, medicals and ring side medical staff present including doctors were sufficient. By all reports WAMTAC has gone well beyond the minimal requirements and thus far no issues were experienced. Obviously, this has not pleased Calgary based CMTC-A who seem to my eyes to be operating on borrowed legitimacy and so will try to foist it in whatever means available to them still. With the amount of Muay Thai talent being produced in Ontario it would seem that is where much of the future lies in up and coming Muay Thai fighters. And in my opinion Ontario must be included in order to accurately gauge Canada’s Muay Thai future with anything resembling a complete picture.
So the good news first: Muay Thai is legal and regulated. More good news, its in my opinion going to continue on that path and its unlikely any organization is going to stop it or force a fiefdom upon Muay Thai in Ontario. The bad news is there is still an active under current of squeamishness and the regulatory staff in place in Ontario are obviously untested with combat sports and there for sure will be bumps along the way. Overall though this is a good start and I am optimistic about Ontario’s future in Muay Thai. Now if an initial step can be made to form a circuit for Muay Thai extending into the United States even more fighters and Muay Thai fans will have more to be happy about.