Coquitlam city council gave the green light to amateur mixed martial arts events Monday in a move that will likely see the first sanctioned MMA fight at the Boulevard Casino by the fall.
In February, the city intervened to stop the controversial sport in Coquitlam due to concerns about fighter safety and an apparent lack of regulatory oversight of MMA events.
But following an April 11 presentation to Coquitlam's recreation, sports and culture standing committee from boxing and MMA promoters West Coast Promotions and the BC Mixed Martial Arts Association (BCMMAA), council voted to remove its objections to the sport and allow amateur MMA fights at the Boulevard Casino's Red Robinson Show Theatre.
Professional MMA events are sill prohibited in Coquitlam.
At the April 11 meeting, West Coast Promotions co-owners Manny Sobral and Neil Pope joined BCMMAA chair Bill Mahood in outlining their amateur MMA rules, safety standards, age restrictions and the official sanctioning of all West Coast Promotions fights by the BCMMAA, which is working to become a member organization of Sport BC, the province's amateur sports federation.
"This doesn't deal with professional MMA which is still not allowed through council under the Coquitlam Athletic Commission," said Coun. Brent Asmundson, chair of the Coquitlam Athletic Commission, which will work with West Coast Promotions and BCMMAA to ensure that all regulations are followed at Red Robinson. "BCMMAA is just an amateur organization and I don't think there is a professional organization as of yet for MMA."
Howard Blank, spokesperson for Boulevard Casino operators Great Canadian Gaming Corporation, said he hoped Coquitlam city council's approval of amateur MMA would be an important first step towards eventually hosting televised professional MMA cards locally.
"Obviously, we're not going to run before we walk," Blank said. "But I think this opens up the door to review how we operate as an industry and we look forward to hopefully being able to present professional [MMA] in a small way and then move up to one day holding televised events."
Blank said he expected the first amateur MMA fight by the fall at the Red Robinson theatre, which can hold up to 1,400 spectators for MMA events and regularly hosts comedians and musical acts.