February 27, 2018 1:58 pm
Updated: February 28, 2018 12:20 am

Moratorium on combative sports officially lifted in Edmonton

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

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Edmonton city council voted Tuesday to lift the moratorium on combative sports that has been in place since Dec. 8, 2017.

Last week, the community and public services committee recommended council lift the ban at its next 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 on Feb. 21.

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READ MORE: Edmonton councillors recommend lifting combative sports moratorium 

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

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.

“We’ve made substantial progress to implement the recommendations from the independent review after Mr. Hague’s death,” Iveson said on Tuesday.

“There’s more work to do but we’re definitely on the right path.”

“Council obviously felt confident to be able to remove the moratorium and allow the industry to recommence in a safer fashion,” the mayor said.

READ MORE: Tim Hague dies Sunday after Edmonton boxing match

Boxer Dale Brown said what happened to Hague and the subsequent ban was a wake-up call.

“It’s tragic what happened and we hate to see anyone pass away in any type of sport but I think this adds a little bit of limelight on it,” he said. “They will buckle down and make sure people are healthy going into the ring.”

Brown said there’s so much going on behind the scenes, leading up to match that the general public isn’t aware of.

“People don’t see what happens behind the competition… I think there needs to be more followed, stricter rules and really doctored to make sure people aren’t hurting themselves prior to getting into the ring in their training.”

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

The moratorium is lifted effective immediately, according to the city.

Administration will provide another update on the implementation of the report’s recommendations on May 23.

“The city continues to support and call on the province to establish a province-wide combative sports commission,” the city said in a news release Tuesday.

After learning the moratorium on combative sports would be lifted, world champion boxer Jelena Mrdjenovich, an Edmontonian, expressed relief at the decision.

“We can get on with making a living,” she said in an interview on 630 CHED’s Inside Sports. “This was an extremely unfortunate incident that happened [Hague’s death]… this is something that happens around the world… we always, every time out, try to ensure the safety of the fighters.

“We all understand and acknowledge the risk every time that we get in that ring.”

Mrdjenovich also announced Tuesday she would be fighting in Alberta’s capital on April 28 to defend her World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association female featherweight titles, now that the moratorium has been lifted.

“I have been looking forward to this 50th bout being in Edmonton for the last two years,” she said. “I’m excited to be able to come home and have this milestone event in front of the people who have supported me and helped me along my career.”

The fight is set to take place at the Shaw Conference Centre on April 28, however, her opponent has yet to be confirmed. Mrdjenovich said the moratorium on combative sports made it difficult to finalize an opponent.

“We can’t expect everyone else in the world to wait on our city to lift the combative sports ban,” she said.

“We had an opponent lined up for the beginning of March… it’s a little bit embarrassing that we had to keep going back and contacting their people.”

-With files from Phil Heidenreich

Listen below: Boxer Jelena Mrdjenovich appeared on 630 CHED’s Inside Sports on Tuesday to speak about Edmonton’s moratorium on combative sports and her future plans.

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