Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Council votes to continue discussion regarding permitting Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights in Provo.

Wikimedia picture of fighters Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos facing off at UFC 131 in Vancouver, Canada, taken by Bad intentionz 11 June 2011

At the Provo Council Meeting on April 1, 2014, the Council voted to continue discussion of an ordinance permitting organized fighting contests, such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights, in Provo if approved by, and in compliance with the Utah Athletic Commission regulations.

This issue was brought before the Council as a result of outreach by Danny Wheeler, the general manager of the Utah Valley Convention Center, who approached Provo Mayor John Curtis to ask what conditions would need to be met to allow Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights in Provo.

As a result, Council staff researched the issue, and brought a presentation before the Council. According to staff, the main obstacle to permitting such fights in Provo code is focused on the the use of headgear as mentioned in the ordinance as a requirement relating to organized fights, as well as only being allowed on city-owned property. MMA fights do not utilize any sort of headgear protection.

The discussion then centered on whether a change to the ordinance should be made to permit Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) style fights.

Council Member Kay Van Buren indicated that initially he was unfamiliar with the issue of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) and so he took some time to educate himself by watching a variety of competitive fights. Council Member Van Buren said that exercise was helpful, but that he also looked toward members of the community for their input on this issue, and also utilized Provo’s Vision 2030 policy document as a way to understand if there was any insights to help clarify what the Council policy on this issue should be that would be reflective of community values and vision.

“Vision 2030 indicates one of the main visions for Provo is to ensure that, ‘Provo (is) an inspiring place to live, learn, work and play’,” Van Buren said. “I said to myself: there’s nothing inspiring about MMA. So I sent a letter to other Council Members and said I can’t support this and I offer you to join me. And so that’s where I stand. I do not support this. If this kind of sport is necessary, I know there’s a lot who participate in the training, there are other venues nearby, and it’s not like we’re eliminating the sport,” Van Buren said. “In my own little unscientific sample and feedback from the community, the input has been against permitting MMA.”

“Well over 4-1 of the respondents to my outreach were against the addition of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights in Provo,” said Council Member David Sewell.

Council Member Stephen Hales also offered similar comments to the Council regarding his constituents being opposed to allowing MMA fights in Provo.

“I am concerned about rolling out the red carpet for these sorts of events, especially when there are other opportunities for those who care to view these events so close,” Hales said.
The Council voted to table the item, with the expectation of revisiting the issue after Council staff has an opportunity to research further alternative proposals limiting such types of events and present those to the Council.

The ordinance being discussed for possible amendment may be found in the Provo City code here, under Chapter 9, subsection 14.

Those wishing to review the video presentation of this item may do so on Provo’s Channel 17 here.

The Daily Herald wrote an article detailing the Council’s discussion, which you can read here.

If you have input for the Council regarding permitting Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) style fights in Provo you can leave a comment on this article, or reach your Council Member directly. Council Member contact information may be found here.