Edmonton councillors recommend lifting combative sports moratorium

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WATCH: City councillors are recommending a moratorium on combative sports in Edmonton that was put in place in December, be lifted. Vinesh Pratap reports.

City councillors are recommending that a moratorium on combative sports in Edmonton that was put in place on Dec. 8, 2017 be lifted.

The decision was made during Wednesday’s community and public services committee meeting.

“The message that council was sending — which is this industry really needs to be cleaned up in some ways —that seems to have gotten through with everybody,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

“I’m quite confident that we’re going to be in a position to lift the moratorium effective next week at council and that the work that will happen after that will only make things safer.”

Council as a whole will vote on the recommendation next week.

READ MORE: Tim Hague dies Sunday after Edmonton boxing match

Tim Hague, a UFC fighter and boxer, died on June 18, two days after a KO Boxing event at the Shaw Conference Centre.

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In December, a third-party report was released. It included 18 recommendations, including that a provincial commission be formed to oversee combative sports in Alberta.

“I think everybody wants to hear it’s in a better spot,” WBC/WIBF World Featherweight Champion Jelena Mrdjenovich said after Wednesday’s recommendation. “I don’t think it was in a poor position prior. Now, we have more formalities. We’ll definitely have to jump through more hoops.

“It keeps the promoters accountable, it keeps the city council accountable and it keeps the fighters accountable.”

READ MORE: Edmonton report into boxer Tim Hague’s death makes 18 recommendations to improve fighter safety

“Fighting is fighting,” Mrdjenovich said. “That is the risk we know going in. I know going into the ring that every fight could be my last fight.”

The moratorium was set to remain in place until Dec. 31, 2018, or until city council provides further direction.

However, in January, the mayor indicated it could be lifted as early as Feb. 28.

“I’ve been in more meetings in the last two months than I have ever had to be in,” said Melanie Lubovac with KO Boxing Promotions.

“We’ve continuously been talking with the commission on the regulatory or the administrative side to make sure that all the improvements that need to be done are done.

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READ MORE: Edmonton moratorium on combative sports could be lifted as soon as February 28 

“We think that if the all-clear is there, that fighter safety has been improved materially, and that important recommendations are in place, then a week later [after Feb. 21 meeting] at city council, we’d be able to lift the moratorium and be back in business,” Iveson said on Jan. 17.

During that meeting, city administration was asked to prepare an amendment to the Combative Sports Bylaw so that wrestling events would be exempt and that Edmonton-based athletes could train here and compete outside the city.