Irish MMA – The future is bright, the future is SAFE

SAFEMMA – Ireland was one of the more popular posts by some of Ireland’s leading MMA personalities last week, but no one has been more vocal than the nation’s first world champion of the sport, Aisling Daly.

Talking exclusively with SevereMMA, Daly highlighted how she became involved with the movement through a chance meeting with Professor Dan Healy at talk he gave on safety in boxing at the Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin.

“I went along to the lecture and it was very interesting hearing what Dan had to say about brain damage and concussions in boxing,” said Daly. “I got talking to him afterwards and that’s really when we decided to get some momentum behind it.

“We put together a task force along with Rodney Moore, Tim Murphy, Joe Clifford and a solicitor, Graham Kenny, whose experience will help us a lot.

“We also keep Dave Jones up to date with everything that happens. He’s been instrumental calling for higher standards in safety in Irish MMA over the years, and his knowledge from years of refereeing makes him a great person to touch base with.”
Daly, who has fought in America under promotions like Bellator and Invicta, has noticed the big differences between the standards across the water and the Irish MMA promotions.

“Years ago we were made sign waivers by the promotions ahead of the fights, which basically said ‘if anything happens to you, we’re not responsible’, but even though there has been improvements made, there’s still a massive gulf even compared to England.

“When I went to America I had blood work done and they would literally feel your ribs and hands to make sure there were no breaks. Your eyes would be checked thoroughly and you’d be put through some drills and after them your heart rate would be checked.

“It was a very formal process but, when you got into the cage you’d know you were in full health and you could be guaranteed that your opponent would be too.

“In Ireland, you’d be asked if you had any breaks, you wouldn’t be checked, there was no blood work and it’s just really unacceptable. Fighters are basically asked if anything is wrong with them and if they say ‘no’, they’re cleared to fight, that’s the case in the majority of the promotions over here”.

“The truth is, without blood work done, you could catch a lot of skin diseases, hepatitis, HIV among other things, off your opponent or vice versa.”

“The promoters need to start realising that the fighters are their product, without them they wouldn’t sell tickets. They also need to start to realise that, should a tragic accident occur, they individually, and as promoters, might find themselves legally culpable where the promotions they operate haven’t met peer-reviewed standards of care and safety”.

With Daly & Co proposing the official launch for SAFEMMA in Ireland as September 1, they have already got the approval off two of the premier promotions to grace the island, Cage Warriors and Battlezone Fighting Championships.

“We already have Battlezone and Cage Warriors on board. Cage Warriors have already been doing it for years with SAFEMMA UK, and theirs will be the model we will follow.

“There will be more though and we have already organised meeting with Cage Contender and Clan Wars, we’ll be targeting all of the promotions who have professionals on their cards,” she said.

As far as what the fighters will be signing up to in accordance with the SAFEMMA guidelines, the former world champion explained a few of the key regulations.

“Everyone who signs up will have their blood work done twice a year and a full, thorough physical once a year. We’re hoping to have brain scans eventually and there will also be medical bans put in place to ensure that people can’t compete immediately after they’ve suffered a particularly bad KO.

“We also want to standardise cage side medics, to their credit a lot of promotions will have St John’s ambulance and other people at the arenas on fight nights, but realistically, these people haven’t got the relevant experience to be dealing with fight related injuries. Practised skills in the airway management of an unconscious fighter is a particular concern.

“Eventually we want every fighter to be able to access an MRI. This is something that Dan Healy is very vocal”.

“There was a case in Michigan not long ago where a fighter died, and if he had an MRI beforehand that would have never happened.

“It is quite an extreme example, but that’s the reality of fighting without proper safety procedures put in place.

“I know of cases in Cage Warriors where fights have been pulled a day before at the weigh ins because of contagious disease, but to be honest, if that fight had of been happening on another promotion in Ireland, it would’ve went ahead,” she revealed.

Ireland’s premier women’s MMA fighter also outlined what she hopes for the future of SAFEMMA.

“Eventually we’d love to get tests in for PEDs as well, and after talking to the SAFEMMA UK guys, we know that we’re all on the same page. We want to keep this evolving.

“What I want is for people to not even think of the procedures as an added obligation as a fighter. When people think they want to be a fighter, I would hope that they would immediately consider getting their blood work done, standardised medical supervision and even hopefully an MRI and that’s how much of an impact I want these safety measures to have,” she finished.

SAFEMMA is a non profit organisation.

By Peter Carroll – @PetesyCarroll

Owner/Editor of SevereMMA.com. Writer, Podcaster, Producer of 'Notorious: Conor McGregor' film, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious' TV series, 'Ten Thousand Hours', 'The Fighting Irish' and more documentary films.