What may have been overlooked in a night full of minor victories last Saturday was the most important victory of all. At the beginning of the month, the Canadian Parliament passed a bill legalizing combat sports such as MMA. As they were in the US, the powerhouses behind the UFC were the forces behind the bill.
First and foremost, legislation comes with acceptance and legitimacy. The bill amends the Criminal Code, which penalizes anyone involved in a “prize fighting contest,” including fighters, promoters, venues, etc. Any fight held outside the authority of a government-acknowledged commissioning body was previously seen as a criminal act. The last amendment to the Criminal Code was in 1934 — to add an exemption for boxing. In that amendment, the Code allowed for “a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass.”
In a statement released by the UFC’s director of Canadian operations, Tom Wright, the importance of crossing the line into politics has to do with establishing a “consistent legislative framework” within which the sport can operate. It’s the fine line between Fight Club and professional boxing. The victory is not in the legislation itself but in that “framework.” It holds fighters and referees alike accountable and, consequently, refines the practices of the training facilities. There are always going to be “dirty” fighters, but within better-defined walls there are bound to be fewer, or at least fewer who get away with it.