It’s a sunday afternoon as I write this. I’m watching some Professional MMA (UFC) on Sportsnet 360. It’s a great card, some well known fighters and some up and comers. It’s also about one month after the Mayor and Council Members for the City of Vernon, British Columbia, Canada voted to pass a bylaw to prevent Professional MMA events in the City of Vernon. You can find the bylaw here.
I’m a fan of MMA. Great stuff, a growing sport, getting lots of television coverage, and clubs springing up all over teaching the skills that are the foundation for it. It’s great to see.
As I understand it, in large measure this move to ban Pro MMA in the City of Vernon was based on the representation of Reg Burgess, the Superintendant of the RCMP in Vernon. They (Vernon RCMP) say that they are concerned about links to organized crime associated with Pro MMA. These are secret concerns, in that we as members of the public don’ t get to hear them. They are disclosed to council only, by way of a closed door meeting. Have there been criminal convictions associated with those running Pro MMA, or amongst the fighters? Although Criminal convictions are a matter of public record, we don’t hear that these are the basis for Mr. Burgess representations on behalf of the RCMP in Vernon. Soooo, I guess his concerns are based on unproven things? Hunches, conjecture?? I dunno, it’s all too clever for me. As a citizen, I’m just glad that they’re looking out for it and for me. But…. I’m watching these MMA Professional fights, almost 5 hours of them, and they were held in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Yep, right here in Canada! I’m worried about those citizens, the ones in Halifax! Are they aware of these risks, the ones that the Mayor and Council for the City of Vernon were able to identify? Were the Mayor and Council of Halifax informed of these terrible risks, that must prevent the holding of a Pro MMA event?
I watched the whole show, really enjoyed it. Other that the fights in the ring I didn’t see any trouble. I also havent’ heard in the news of any riots or other activity (hmm, I guesss because it’s not a hockey game??) occuring in the stadium or on the streets afterwards. As I watched, I observed that Boston Pizza was a sponsor for the match. I’ve seen Jim Treliving, an ex RCMP officer, whom I understand to now be the CEO of Boston Pizza on the Dragon’s Den many times. He’s a pretty straight up guy and really tries to help out the new business people that appear on the show, and I know they sponsor a lot of teams all over Canada. Another sponsor was FRAM. I think they make oil filters? Scotia Bank was also a sponsor. Scotia Bank is certainly a reputable company, they even sponsored Cricket teams, including Canada’s National Team (a subject very near and dear to my girl’s heart).
So I’m left wondering, does this sea of criminality in Professional MMA not extend elsewhere? Or did the RCMP in Halifax not see fit to inform Council there? What are the specifics of these concerns? I dunno, this is for the members of council in the City of Vernon to figure out, and the Mayor too. I’m just left knowing that I’m a little bit safer. I think?? Hmm. I dunno?
Update: 2018.09.15 I hit the press a bit when I spoke up about this bylaw. I had not wanted to. In fact I really tried to avoid it- head down, look at the floor, come a bit early and just take your seat. But since then I’ve been a bit haunted by comments like one from J. Pratt (whom I’ve never met) who said:
Did everyone miss the irony of the fact that the only person to speak in favour of MMA events is someone with ties to organized crime?
That’s what he said. I’ve thought about this at some length, and to this I reply:
I have considered some of the comments here for some time. Wow, almost 4 years in fact. That may seem a little petty, not having much else to focus on in life? I’m not suggesting that I’ve non-stop been thinking about this, but when people come out with clever and anonymous comments those comments have an effect. I think an explanation is in order. I was well aware of the parallels that could be drawn as I made the comments that I did before city council. When I went to this council meeting I had hoped to be as anonymous as I could. I didn’t wear a sign or badge that said “gang lawyer”. I walked in quietly, tried to keep my head down in case anyone recognized me, and didn’t plan on saying anything. I had heard that city council was going to vote on a matter that concerned me, being a ban on professional mixed martial arts. Now say what you will about gangs and mixed martial arts, but I just don’t see them as being synonymous. Apparently the police in Vernon do. They are concerned enough that they make a secret presentation to council that got this whole thing started. We don’t get to hear what the concerns that they had are, that’s all “in camera”, meaning you’re never able to know it. I just heard they were having a vote to ban any MMA professional bouts in Vernon, and I thought “hey I like MMA, I think it’s a heck of a sport.” I’ve watched hundreds of matches on the TV, and have been able to attend one while on holiday in Mexico. I had tried to attend another in Vernon but the match didn’t go ahead. I believe the reason it didn’t go ahead was a lack of ticket sales? In all of those matches that I’ve watched I’ve never seen a gang symbol of any sort that I recognized. I haven’t heard any slogans/phrases that seemed to be associated to gangs, not a single one. There was never, at the close of hundreds of matches that I’ve watched, an announcement of the victory of this or that gang. I hear more gang associated stuff from professional wrestling, and no one in the world ties anything of meaning to that. The ghost of Al Capone did not call me up and say “hey, gang lawyer who’s been disgraced publicly, run down to city hall and try to oppose this bylaw that prevents our gang fund raising.” What kind of strategy would that be?? It in effect undermines the very thing you’re trying to accomplish?? Yes, I knew that. I’m not dull witted. So I went to the council meeting with every intention of being as anonymous as I could, but hoped to be in silent support of whoever might speak up against what I see as a really misguided and discriminatory bylaw. I sat quietly in my seat, I got there early as I thought that the mixed martial arts clubs in town (small struggling businesses to be sure, no sign of gang involvement that I’ve been able to detect) might put in a good presence and I wanted to be able to sit down as my back hurts if I stand for too long. I had thought there would be some lengthy debate. What happened….. No one showed up and no one stood up. Not one person spoke up. They asked if anyone had comment and there was complete silence. None of the members of Vernon city council said anything in opposition, none of the pubic said anything, silence. I looked around, and looked around, and the time to make any reply was about to be gone, so I stood up. I knew full well the parallels that would be drawn. I expected that I may well be recognized and ridiculed due to the “gang lawyer” association, but I really thought this bylaw was discriminatory and misguided and surely someone should say something???? So I did. I spoke for about a minute and a half, and talked about how I enjoyed the sport, and that there were clubs in the city that practised this very sport, to become skilled, and in some cases become professional, and how the money that was involved was so very small at the level that we would see here in Vernon, not ever even coming close to covering gym costs, and it fell on utterly deaf ears. The “in camera” presentation by the RCMP apparently had devastating effect. I was not asked a single question. No one else stood up and spoke, and Vernon city council voted 100% in favour of the bylaw, and there’s not been a professional mixed martial art bout in Vernon since then.
So there’s my explanation. I don’t see too much that’s “Ironic” in that, but I guess if you’re desperate to find it and very clever maybe you’ll get there. I note that there has never been, to the best of my knowledge, a professional mixed martial arts event in Vernon, so the whole thing is a bit of a tempest in a tea pot I guess. The one that tried failed due to a lack of ticket sales.
Good news. The City of Vernon council looked again at this issue. They voted to rescind the ban on these events in Vernon. They invited the current chief of the RCMP in Vernon to offer comment. She advised that she had investigated the theory of organized crime being involved in MMA and found it not to be the case. The Vernon Morning Star did a good article on it. I’m left with a question though. Was “organized crime” ever actually involved, and if so, did they leave? Why did they leave if they left? Perhaps because, as I had advised counsel when I spoke up the first time around, these events struggle like mad just to pay the bills. There is no huge bundle of money available. Sure, when you’re hitting pay per view it’s a different story, but these events in towns the size of Vernon, they struggle. Hence the reason that organized crime never was involved in these events. On what basis did the police assert this involvement in the first place? We won’t know, that’s a secret meeting that no one is allowed to know the contents of. But the assertion sure didn’t stand the passage of time.
More good news. An MMA event was hosted in Vernon on Saturday August 24, 2019. I was not able to attend but my mother did. She’s 74, but thought that at the first sign of gunfire or organized crime activity she could make a break for it. This was not the first time my mother had attended an MMA match, and she’d never noticed any organized crime activity, but she was ready. After watching almost the entire event she went home. She noticed absolutely nothing that appeared in any way criminal, or connected to organized crime. It was a sold out house, and there were some pretty good matches.