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Leef fights for MMA bill

A priority for Yukon's MP Ryan Leef is to see mixed martial arts legitimized and regulated across Canada.

A priority for Yukon’s MP Ryan Leef is to see mixed martial arts legitimized and regulated across Canada.

The former cagefighter testified last month as an expert witness in a senate committee looking at a bill proposing to add the sport, commonly referred to as MMA, under the current law that governs “prize fights,” like boxing.

“When we start moving towards standardization it just turns out to be a cleaner, safer and healthier all around competition,” he said. “The ultimate objective is that you have an MMA commission that starts to really standardize rules and regulations.

“It will still be up to the provinces to have those commissions in place. But it will certainly make it easier to hold the events across the country. It will make it far clearer for promoters, and ultimately make it far safer for everyone involved.”

Currently, rules vary widely across Canada for such things as which communities are allowed to host bouts, medical checks and standards for safety equipment.

The law, which hasn’t changed since 1934, is too narrow, said Leef. Even sports like karate and taekwondo, which are Olympic sports, are not recognized under Canadian law, he said.

“They’ve all been able to operate, but mostly under some clever use of commission sanctioning and those sorts of things,” he said. “They’re not quite fitting into the definition of prize fights.”

And having an overall, definitive recognition for MMA in law will trickle down to everyone involved, or interested in the sport, Leef added.

“It also will provide some direction downward to that fan base, to the youth,” he said. “In the Yukon, that’s obviously something I’ve done, trying to shape a message around that sport.

“MMA is the fastest growing sport in the world today, and if the message isn’t controlled properly, then you have these sidebar things going on that we don’t want.”

Leef encourages youth to get involved in the sport, but in a safe way with coaches and protective gear, not on the streets in unorthodox fights, he said. The former MMA fighter adds that the sport is also one of the safest contact sports, showing fewer upsetting statistics than hockey.

Under the current hodge-podge of laws in Canada, the Yukon is preparing to host a world-title kickboxing bout in Watson Lake this September.

“It’ll be interesting,” said Leef. “I’m sure they’ll run a well-controlled and safe event. I’d certainly like to go along and see ... to support the health and safety of the athletes and to make sure I reach the fan base, particularly the young fan base.”

The “prize fight” bill is expected to come back to the House this month, said Leef, adding that while this bill is a priority for him and “jives” with his anti-bullying campaign, there are plenty of other pressing things on his mind right now, like his Conservative government’s omnibus budget bill.

Contact Roxanne Stasyszyn at