Shane Ross ‘had no direct knowledge’ of axed MMA event
Minister for Sport sharply criticised by Battle Arena Ireland for intervention at weekend
Minister for Sport Shane Ross said the promotion on Saturday should not go ahead due to safety fears. Photograph: Barbara Lindberg
The organisers of a mixed martial arts (MMA) event that was cancelled at the weekend following an intervention by Minister for Sport Shane Ross have said he had “no direct knowledge” of the organisation and described his actions as “incredibly disappointing”.
Battle Arena Ireland was forced to cancel its event after two planned venues became unavailable. Mr Ross had said the promotion on Saturday should not go ahead as it had “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, which also cancelled at the eleventh hour.
‘Successfully and safely’
In an “official statement” on the organisation’s Facebook page on Monday, owner James Price said it had “successfully and safely” run 51 events since January 2010, and that competitor safety had “always been one of the pillars” of his business.
He said Battle Arena Ireland operates under the rules of the International Sports Karate Association (ISKA), and was the first amateur promotion to provide pre-fight and post-fight medicals for all athletes, as well as ensure the presence of an ambulance at fights.
Furthermore, he said, the organisation employs a chief accident and emergency consultant from a general hospital as its ringside doctor at all events.
“We advertised our event for over eight weeks in advance,” said Mr Price. “Throughout we heard rumblings of discontent, but as no one from IMMAA (International Mixed Martial Arts Federation) or any other body, official or unofficial, made contact with us, we put this down to hearsay.
“We followed our tried and tested routine over the course of the next few months, arranging the operational side of the event, sourcing the right officials and medical teams to ensure that we would pass ISKA sanction.
“On the week of the event, this all changed. Four days before our weigh-ins, we were called by our venue, who verbally informed us that their insurance policy wouldn’t cover our event as combat events weren’t allowed to take place within their venues.
“As this call was verbal, this is purely our word against theirs. However, their venues have hosted a number of combat events in recent months, even including White Collar Boxing, which has far greater legitimacy issues than MMA at present.”
Mr Price said the organisation then booked the Claremont stadium as an alternative venue.
“Later that evening, the Minister of Sport in Ireland, Shane Ross, released a statement questioning our legitimacy and procedures,” he said. “The day of the event, the Claremont stadium decided that they too were unable to host our event, with little to no explanation.
“We would like to note here that at no point did Mr Ross speak to us, at no point did he visit us, at no point did he send representation to investigate us or our practices, he made the statement based upon no direct knowledge of MMA Battle Arena, its practices or sanctioning, which is incredibly disappointing.”
Mr Price, who was also critical of media coverage of the cancellation, said he hoped to organise MMA events in the Republic at some point in the future, and invited Mr Ross to observe the practices of the organisation.
“We would welcome a discussion with Shane Ross and feel confident that we can allay his fears,” he said.
“Irrespective of the nature of the statement he made, which we strongly refute, we understand that Mr Ross purely has the best interest of Irish athletes at his core.
“The next MMA Battle Arena event takes place on November 17th at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham. We’d like to publicly invite Mr Ross to the event as our guest. He will be given open access to observe our practices and procedures in person.”