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Ontario’s Amateur MMA Scene: A Study in Absurdity

(It’s as if the province of Ontario is giving us the middle finger at every waking moment.) 

When you report on all things MMA for a living (or at least claim to) like we here at CP do, it becomes a rarer and rarer occurrence that something truly blows our collective minds. A botched drug test here, a DWI/Domestic Assault arrest here — none of these things really surprise us in the sense that they are completely unheard news stories. Rather, it is often the whos and whats of a given case that give us food for thought. In other words, it is not everyday that we are treated to a rampage across Southern California that really makes us sit back and ponder the peculiarity of a given situation.

Today is one of those days, Potato Nation.

For you see, our buddies at Fightlinker managed to come across a story originally reported by Sportsnet’s Joe Ferraro that involved Canada’s ever-budding amatuer mixed martial arts scene, and we felt the need to pass it along.

But first, a little backstory. For those of you keeping track, Ontario did not legalize mixed martial arts until the beginning of 2011, but the Ontarian (yes, that’s what they call themselves) response was overwhelmingly positive. UFC 129 became the fastest selling card in UFC History, selling over 55,000 tickets in just over two days. We’re talking about a card that had Jake f’ing Shieldzzzzz in the main event, people. The UFC returned to Ontario at UFC 140, and in both occasions, saw the usual mix of enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans in attendance, something that cannot be said for many other venues.

So one would think that when it came to determining a set of rules for which amateur MMA would be governed by, Ontario would have more than an infinitesimal inkling as to how the sport they loved so much was run. You would be wrong. So, very, very wrong.

First, let’s take a look at some of the more glaring observations that Ferraro made when looking through Ontario’s AMMA rulebook:

– MMA has seven weight classes. This group believes amateur MMA should have 12.

– I do not believe MMA should ever consider using standing eight counts, like they do in boxing or kickboxing. This organization believes amateur MMA should use standing eight counts.

– If you land a “Jump Kick to (the) Head,” you are awarded three points. “Jump Kick to (the) body” will garner you two points.

If you have not figured it out yet, by looking at the link to the rules above, yes, the organization that runs the sport of amateur MMA in the province is Kickboxing Ontario, as well as, Kickboxing Canada, aka CASK (Council of Amateur Sport Kickboxing). And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, but what they are doing can and should be modified to better reflect amateur MMA, and not kickboxing.

After reading over the rulebook myself, I found that the classes outside of the standard seven in MMA include Light Bantam, Light Welter, Light Middle, Cruiser, and Super Heavy, which is fine if that’s what Ontario wants to do. It’s a tad ridiculous considering that these weight classes will only exist at one place in the world, but if Ontario wants to add Rumbleweight, Franklinweight, and Moneyweight to their rankings, fine.

But then my eyes passed over the phrase “standing eight counts.” In MMA. If the very thought of that concept filled you with a sense of constipated, sickening anxiety and befuddlement, then you are not alone. Aside from being the main argument *against* boxing pundits beliefs that MMA is more dangerous than boxing, it makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine. How does one enact an eight count in a sport where a fighter is allowed to follow his opponent to the canvas to finish him off, or possibly work for a submission? Perhaps this is why MMA rules and regulation shouldn’t be, as Ferraro pointed out, run by a kickboxing organization. At least if they are not even going to attempt and understand the sport they have been put in charge of.

And don’t even get us started on this “Jump Kick to (the) Head” scoring bullshit. According to those rules, Edson Barboza would have walked away from UFC 142 with not only his FOTN and KOTN bonus, but a promotion, a new car, and a lifetime supply of Plinko chips.

Now let’s move on to some of the observations made by Ferraro at the amateur MMA event itself, the first of which took place the day before he even arrived. Warning: you may come away from this with a newfound respect for Steve Mazzagatti and Kim Winslow:

When I arrived at the venue on Sunday morning, even before I walked in I received a phone call from two concerned (and bitter) coaches, whose experiences the day before were extremely disappointing. To make a long story short, they watched a bout where a fighter dominated his opponent, knocked him down to the ground and when he went to finish him off, his opponent pulled his arm inside and held him tight. The referee apparently stopped the bout and gave the win to the bottom fighter, for a “near submission.” Apparently, all hell nearly broke lose.

Having instigated more than a few montage-interrupting riots, food fights, and full on tribal wars in my day, I can say that in this occasion, a retaliation of Brobdingnagian proportions would have been justified. Let’s continue:

Back to paying attention to the action, where my heart sunk as I watched what the aforementioned coaches and athletes all said would take place. Things like during the bout taking place at 10:45 a.m., the referee halted the action and stood the competitors up (apologies, as I was unable to retrieve their names) so one of them could adjust his headgear. I have no issue with that, but when the bout was restarted, it was done so in the standup and NOT where it should have been restarted — on the ground.

The same thing took place during the bout taking place at 11:17 a.m., where the two competitors were stood up and restarted after grappling themselves out of bounds. During the bout at 11:24 a.m., one fighter submitted his opponent. I saw the tap. But the referee stood them up and they began competing again. Another tap, another standup, another restart.

(I later found out that this is “how it is.” A submission ends the round, and the next round commences. I later discovered, but was unable to confirm, that one competitor earned two submissions, but lost round three. The tally from the scorecards had him losing the bout. Preposterous? For the average folk, yes. Knowing what I know, it is “how it is.”) 

Now you’ve done it, Ontario. Through some immeasurable level of shitbrained incompetence, you’ve actually managed to make it appear as if Chael Sonnen wasn’t trolling us when he stated that he “misunderstood the rules” of tapping in his first bout with Anderson Silva. A tap ends the round?! ENDS THE ROUND?! ARE WE STILL TALKING ABOUT THE SAME SPORT?! I FEEL LIKE I’M TAKING CRAZY PILLS!!!

You think this is over? THINK AGAIN.

I actually walked away during this bout, as two minutes later, at 11:26 a.m., unlike the description in its Rules and Regulations, the “safety zone” was not present around the competition area. One competitor executed a double leg takedown on the perimeter, finishing off the technique on the concrete floor. Now I have held tournaments in the past. I have promoted MMA in and outside of a cage. I have been a part of and witnessed hundreds upon hundreds of grappling and MMA events, but this was a first. A scary one, but it paled in comparison to what ended my day.

I actually returned a few hours later to the very area where I was scared for the safety of the two competitors. Next to the mats was a ring where “K-1 Rules” bouts were taking place. I watched in sheer horror as one competitor knocked out his opponent, who stiffened up in mid-air and landed like a two-by-four onto the mat.

He lay there motionless as I waited for the referee to tend to his safety. Instead (and I do not fully blame her as she has surely not been trained and certified CORRECTLY), the ref simply made sure that the one fighter remained in the neutral corner, while conducting an eight count… ON A FIGHTER WHO WAS OUT COLD. We cringed as the youngster lay motionless for the better part of 20 seconds and I had enough… I made my way to the barricade but stopped when I saw the paramedics enter the ring, albeit with no sense of urgency. Again, I had enough and left.

As a huge proponent of amateur MMA, and amateur combat sports in general, I must say that this is nothing short of horrifying to come across. For Christ’s sake, Michael Vick treated his dogs with more care and understanding than the so-called “officials” of a sport that, while ever-improving in its safety (except for in Ontario, of course), has proven that it can still be deadly if the correct procedures are not followed, and even when they are. Unbelievable.

As Ferraro also concluded, although it is great to see any new region accept MMA, doing so in this seemingly rushed, incoherent fashion is not only blindingly stupid for everyone involved, but a serious threat to the safety of those who choose to participate. Those in charge of this unnamed organization best make some changes before holding another event, or it is going to be all too clear who to blame when the worst case scenario plays out.

-J. Jones

Cagepotato Comments

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Mickey Talbert- June 9, 2012 at 4:22 am
Then factor in how any and all government agencies here manage to turn the simplest things into clusterfucks, and this is the shitshow you get.
Georgianna Yanez- June 7, 2012 at 4:49 am
saw the usual mix of enthusiastic and knowledgeable fans in attendance, something that cannot be said for many other venues.
benhamil- June 6, 2012 at 12:19 pm
People in Ontario call themselves "O-Tays", not Ontarians.
2Dogs- June 6, 2012 at 4:00 am
Never once have I called myself an Ontarian...
Joseph Culpepper- June 6, 2012 at 12:34 am
best make some changes before holding another event, or it is going to be all too clear who to blame when the worst case scenario plays out.
NinjaVanish- June 5, 2012 at 10:00 pm
The first rule of Ontario Amateur MMA is that you don't talk about Ontario Amateur MMA. Someone is gonna bleed!
ArmFarmer- June 5, 2012 at 5:38 pm
Actually piratehooker has it wrong. They still allow the FPPEHT, but now it only wins you the round.
smellypiratehooker- June 5, 2012 at 3:31 pm
Its gotten better though since they banned the five point palm exploding heart technique.
NomadRip- June 5, 2012 at 2:52 pm
This can't be that bad there, can it? That's just lame/pointless/deadly all rolled into one organization?
If you're trolling, I'm gonna give your movie a thumbs down on YouTube.
Fried Taco- June 5, 2012 at 2:44 pm
That is nothing, the other day I was watching a match when one competitor executed a knee-bar submission on my student, and the referee awarded him the win even though it is clearly stated in the rules that a knee-bar is not allowed and the competitor should be disqualified! I went ape-shit and flew over the barriers to gently remind the ref of the rules and what I thought of his mother. I was even nice to the security guys who then had to drag me out of the venue, even though I could have tore them apart easily. And we weren't even in Canada!
The_Dead_Cow- June 5, 2012 at 2:36 pm
Holy shit! Every time the rule book mentions "illegal technique", shit gets crazy. It's like one step up from San Doo.
agentsmith- June 5, 2012 at 2:22 pm
The Athletics Commissioner in Ontario is a lifelong karate guy who used to not even bother to hide his disdain for MMA. For years while neither amateur nor pro MMA could get sanctioned, full-contact karate tournaments were all fine n' dandy. He probably still doesn't know jack shit about MMA and doesn't care to. Then factor in how any and all government agencies here manage to turn the simplest things into clusterfucks, and this is the shitshow you get.
The_Dead_Cow- June 5, 2012 at 2:19 pm
GTFO, there is no way this is true. Really?!?!
HardKnockLife- June 5, 2012 at 2:08 pm
Don't you guys know by now, these things happen in MMA.