Coach cautiously optimistic about discussion on lifting MMA ban in Vernon - InfoNews

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Coach cautiously optimistic about discussion on lifting MMA ban in Vernon

Raja Kler's athletes compete outside of Vernon due to the current MMA ban.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Raja Kler
March 12, 2019 - 6:00 PM

VERNON - Ask any professional or amateur fighter and they'll tell you one of the hardest parts of competing at a high level is weight cutting. It's the process of shedding pounds of muscle, fat, or water in order to enter a fight in a different weight class. It's a difficult practice even for professionals in the UFC.

Raja Kler, a coach at Unity MMA, a mixed martial arts training dojo in Vernon, said weight cutting can be even harder when you're on the road for six hours before a bout.

Kler trains numerous athletes for competition, but they never fight with a home field advantage. Kler's athletes have to travel to Vancouver and other parts of B.C. to compete in mixed martial arts events. It adds an extra level of difficulty to an already tough sport. It's been like this since 2014, when the City of Vernon banned mixed martial arts events from the municipality. But that rule could be set to change.

At the March 11 regular meeting, Vernon city councillors voted to reject a motion upholding the mixed martial arts ban and instead decided to look into the possibility of legalizing such events in the city. They'll be talking with the RCMP and the mixed martial arts community over the next few weeks as they look at their options.

For Kler, lifting the ban can't come soon enough, although he's careful not to let his optimism run away with him.

"I try to be pragmatic," he said. "It's the right course of action."

Mixed martial arts has exploded over the last decade thanks to high-profile companies like the UFC. In 2013, the provincial government passed the Athletic Commissioner Act, putting the B.C. Athletic Commissioner in charge of overseeing mixed martial arts and boxing in the province, along with other combat sports. According to its website, officials oversaw more than 60 events in B.C.

In 2014, the Vernon council passed a bylaw banning mixed martial arts events in the municipality, citing concerns regarding the sport's alleged connections with organized crime. When asked about the Vernon RCMP's stance on mixed martial arts and any possibile criminal connections, media spokesperson Const. Kelly Brett said she had no comment because she had not heard that council was reconsidering the ban.

Kler said mixed martial arts deserves a chance to grow in Vernon. He said local shows would help his athletes improve and provide quality live entertainment.

"It's not a taboo thing anymore," he said. "The secret's out. People would like to see fights."

Kler said mixed martial arts has a reputation for knuckle-dragging violence and he wants to change that perception in Vernon.

"I'd like to showcase that it's not brutal," he said. "It's an art form."

Kler said he'd be interested in putting a delegation together about mixed martial arts and bringing it to Vernon council. He's hopeful the sport could flourish if the ban is lifted.

"In the Vernon area the interest is here," he said.


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