Recently amended laws and legislation to allow pro mixed martial arts fighting in Canada and B.C. have gone the opposite route for pro kickboxing.
B.C.’s Liberal government was applauded by the MMA community for standardizing the rules and helping change the criminal code, Bill S-209, and creating a B.C. athletic commission to sanction pro MMA events.
But the new wording in the amendments and rulings omitted the sport of kickboxing, which may no longer be contested professionally in B.C. without further review and amendment of the laws.
The Ministry of Community, Sport and Cultural Development released a statement this week in response to the question as to why pro kickboxing was outlawed.
“The federal government voted in June 2013 to pass Bill S-209 exempting mixed martial arts from the criminal code. This change to the criminal code, however, does not specifically identify professional kickboxing. Because the criminal code falls under federal jurisdiction, members of the kickboxing community who have concerns may wish to contact their local MPs.”
Until the criminal code changes, the province will only regulate and sanction professional boxing and MMA.
Frustrating local kickboxers is that their discipline is one of the many disciplines used in MMA. Furthermore, one way to look at kickboxing is as a restricted form of MMA.
“When MMA fighters are standing up they can do everything a kickboxer does, so I’m at a loss as to how kickboxing is now illegal,” said Stan Peterec.
The ruling has the former world kickboxing champion and local fight promoter doing a face palm. He was among the MMA pioneers in B.C. and has been one of its biggest amateur promoters in B.C., helping to bring the sport here in its early days.
Adding to the endless irony of the situation is how influential the UFC was in getting the rules changed, either directly or out of an economic demand to bring the popular fighting events to Canada.
It all came on the heels of a massively successful UFC event in Vancouver two years ago. At the time, Vancouver council voted to approve the event on a temporary basis. Locally, pro MMA organization Aggression Fighting Championship had already been running since 2009, as the local athletic commission, which formerly oversaw boxing and kickboxing, was recognized by the West Shore Parks and Recreation board of directors.
And when the ministry decided to usher in the legalization of MMA, it leaned on Peterec’s expertise prior to drafting up the legislation. Peterec even liaised between the ministry representative and UFC president Dana White when the organization was in Vancouver two years ago.
Whether the sport of kickboxing was omitted intentionally or unintentionally in the new legislation, it’s taken away the option of going pro for a very large population of martial arts athletes in B.C.
“It doesn’t make any sense and it’s going to hinder athletes,” said Victoria’s Lindsay Ball (inset photo).
Undefeated in 12 pro fights, Ball is fighting in Japan this week. She’s fought mostly in Thailand and Asia the past two years but got her start with a handful of amateur and pro fights here in Victoria.
“If you’re an amateur you look forward to bigger things like going pro, even if you never make it pro, it’s still what you work for, just that chance that you could,” Ball said. “Now it’s going to be detrimental to athletes. You’re not going to earn a fly-out from a promoter to fight out of province if you haven’t got any pro fights to your name.”
Gabriel Varga is Victoria’s other top fighter. Peterec believes there is an appetite in Victoria to see Varga fight in one of the biggest kickboxing promotions, K1, but it can’t come here though Peterec says it would like to. Varga competes Saturday (Oct. 12) in a featherweight match against Jose Palacios on the Glory 11 fight card in Chicago.
Clearly, people aren’t aware there’s usually more kickboxers in a gym these days than anything else, Peterec said.
“It’s hard to find a traditional boxing gym nowadays. Most gyms run classes for boxing, kickboxing and MMA to pay the rent, and kickboxing is still the most popular class,” he said.
There are strictly MMA clubs. Vic West’s Zuma Martial Arts is one of them, home to Victoria’s only UFC fighter, Sara Kaufman.
“It’s crazy that they would approve pro MMA but take away pro kickboxing, which has been around for so long,” said Kaufman, a former women's MMA world champion.
Kaufman was surprised at the ruling considering pro kickboxing in B.C. and North America is modified Muay Thai, which means limited use of knees and elbows.
“A lot less is allowed in kickboxing than in MMA,” she said. “For one thing, if you’re knocked down in boxing or kickboxing the fight stops, whereas in MMA it will continue.”
Kickboxers also use bigger gloves compared to the smaller striking gloves of MMA.