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Vernon's justification for MMA ban is a secret

Coaches Sarah Moras (left) and David Lea teach a kids Mixed Martial Arts lesson at Toshido MMA in Kelowna. Lea has spoken out against the allegations that the sport is linked to organized crime.
June 02, 2014 - 7:30 AM


VERNON - City officials and the police say their hands are tied when it comes to sharing the information behind allegations that mixed martial arts events are connected to organized crime.

Vernon council has asked staff to prepare a bylaw banning mixed martial arts (MMA) events in the city. Mayor Rob Sawatzky gave two reasons for the ban: MMA endangers participants’ health and he cited “discussions over the last couple of years from the police informing us that there’s a very strong historical and well known relationship between mixed martial arts events and organized crime.”

Sawatzky says that information was brought to council at two in camera meetings (sessions closed to the public.)

“The first was a year ago with an organized crime specialist who came in to speak to us with lots of specific information, organized crime names, dates, specific involvements,” Sawatzky says.

The second presentation was a verbal update from the police. Sawatzky refused to say more because of “implications with informants and police.”

Because the information was delivered to council in camera, RCMP spokesperson Gord Molendyk won’t say much either.

“From our perspective, I will say that we support council,” Molendyk says.

He adds the information provided to council came from a “reliable source” and says MMA events in the past have resulted in calls to the police.

“On a couple occasions, yes, there have been issues around MMA events within the city. We have had files associated to drug related and gang related activities,” Molendyk says.

He says there were a couple MMA events per year between 2009 and 2012, with the last known MMA contest in the city in February 2012. Thirteen officers were assigned that event.

“They put a great demand on our resources,” Molendyk says.

Meanwhile the mixed martial arts community has spoken out against the allegations, saying they are offensive and uninformed. 

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014
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