MMA event in Co Meath cancelled after Shane Ross remarks

Minister for Sport had questioned safety standards at Battle Arena promotion

Minister for Sport Shane Ross  called for a mixed martial arts event in Co Meath to be cancelled. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times

Minister for Sport Shane Ross called for a mixed martial arts event in Co Meath to be cancelled. Photograph: Alan Betson/The Irish Times


A mixed martial arts (MMA) event in Co Meath has been cancelled following an intervention by Minister for Sport Shane Ross.

Battle Arena, the organisers of the event, was forced to cancel the full event after two planned venues became unavailable.

Mr Ross said the promotion on Saturday should not go ahead as it “has been suggested” to him that “important minimum safety precautions” were not in place.

The event was originally supposed to take place in Trim GAA club, before the venue was switched to Claremont Stadium in Navan. Battle Arena said that change of venue was due to “circumstances beyond our control”.

RTÉ reported on Saturday that the board of Claremont Stadium had decided it would no longer host the event following Mr Ross’s comments. The fighters who were due to take part had gone to a local MMA club to spar instead.

Mr Ross, in a statement on Friday, had referred to MMA fighter Joao Carvalho (28), who died due to blunt force trauma to the head after he was knocked during a Total Extreme Fighting contest at the National Boxing Stadium on April 10th, 2016 .

The jury at Mr Carvalho’s inquest returned a verdict of misadventure and recommended the setting up of a national governing body for MMA in Ireland. It also recommended that all medical partners engage nationally qualified paramedics.

“The mixed martial arts community have responded to the jury’s findings by embarking on a process towards the establishment of an appropriate governing body for MMA which could ultimately be recognised by Sport Ireland, the Government agency responsible for the promotion of sport in Ireland,” said Mr Ross.

“Until such time as a national governing body is established and recognised, leaders of the MMA community have repeatedly indicated that they will continue to adhere to the highest safety standards.”

Mr Ross said this included the provision of a database of participants’ medical status; that MMA events use only participants registered on such a database; that the community accepts and adheres to medically supervised suspensions, and that it provide verifiable processes for taking medical examinations and confirming results.

“Such examinations would be appropriate to the level of risk involved in an event, eg periodic medical examinations, periodic blood tests, pre-event and post-event medical examinations, and periodic brain scans,” he said.

“It has been suggested to me that this may be the first MMA event to be held in Ireland without all of these important minimum safety precautions since the tragic passing of Joao Carvalho, almost two and a half years ago.

‘Deeply troubling’

“I find it deeply troubling that any event promoter could contemplate running an event which would expose the participants to an unacceptable level of risk and injury.

“While I don’t have the authority to stop this event I do ask the event promoters to consider cancelling it if they cannot implement these basic precautions in full.

“With regards to MMA events, the MMA community have publicly affirmed their commitment to ensuring that all necessary precautions are taken, including appropriately qualified paramedics being in attendance, ambulance services being present, intubation facilities being available and other relevant measures.

“Unfortunately, the passing of Joao Carvalho highlights that lives are at risk at MMA and other extreme combat sports events.

“For MMA events, adherence to the high safety standards adopted by the leaders of the MMA community is vitally important in the interregnum to the establishment of a governing body.”

Mr Ross added that event promoters and their insurance service providers will “need to continue to be mindful” of their responsibility for participants’ safety “and liability” should an event lead to a serious injury or fatality.