Good news for professional wrestlers and fans: city council has exempt professional wrestling from the combative sports ban and will review other combative sports on Feb. 21.

“City council heard what speakers had to say and voted unanimously [to lift the ban for pro wrestlers]―the council saw impact,” said Sean Dunster of Monster Pro Wrestling. “Such a relief, but also stress because now I have to organize a show in about a week.”

Sean Dunster of Monster Pro Wrestling said his athletes are performers. | Rebecca Lippiatt

The city’s community and public services committee met on Jan. 17 to review the ban and proposed course of action. On Jan. 23, city council decided to exempt professional wrestling since it’s considered entertainment and because the outcome is predetermined.

On Dec. 8, city council implemented a year-long ban on combative sports events following the death of Tim Hague, a Canadian heavyweight mixed martial artist who died from a brain injury last June following a boxing match.

Hague began to lose matches in his last years as a fighter and had three detrimental and unrecorded technical knockouts before his match with Adam Braidwood.

After Hague’s death, MNP, an external consulting agency hired by the city and the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission (ECSC), reviewed combative fighting policies. Their report showed inadequate record keeping endangers fighters and suggested 18 recommendations to improve fighter safety, including qualifications of officials and matchmakers.

Sports affected by the ban are outlined in city bylaw 15594 and include any instance “where opponents strike each other with hands, feet, knees, elbows, or other part of the body and includes, but is not limited to, wrestling, full contact karate, kickboxing, martial arts, muay thai, or any combination of any of the above.”

City council wants to ensure fighter safety is a priority. | Rebecca Lippiatt

Council heard statements from nearly 20 representatives of the combative fighting community, including champion boxer Jelena Mrdjenovich.

“I’m embarrassed to be an Edmontonian for the first time in my life” said Mrdjenovich. The ban, if continued, would force her to forfeit her title.

“It is impossible to appeal the ban,” said ECSC chairman Steven Phipps.

Many of the fighters said the ban would force them to participate in unregulated matches to support themselves and their families. Consequences range from a fine of up to $10,000 to a criminal conviction.

Various combative sports representatives said they are willing to cooperate with council to help improve regulations so they can get back on their feet and host events.

“This is my full-time job. If it [the ban] continues to be for a year, I’m going to have to shut down,” said Melanie Lubovac, president of KO Boxing.

Council ended the meeting by agreeing to take a closer look at MNP’s recommendations and will reassess the current safety concerns in front of a full council in February.

“The moratorium could come off within a matter of weeks as long as city council is assured that some progress is being made on priority fighter safety recommendations,” said Mayor Don Iveson.

Council could lift the ban as soon as Feb. 28.

Featured Image: City council implemented the ban on combative sports on Dec. 8, 2017 but then exempt wrestling from the ban on Jan. 23, 2018. | Rebecca Lippiatt