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15th Apr 2016

We spoke to a retired referee about the lack of proper MMA regulation in Ireland

Darragh Murphy

“Ireland and the UK need to have regulation of MMA for the sport to grow.”

Retired referee Frank Geric is adamant that regulatory bodies of some sort must be put in place in regions in which promoters are responsible for sanctioning events.

Geric, a veteran referee of over 400 mixed martial arts bouts, believes that a sanctioning body is the very least that must be set up in countries such as Ireland.

“There are organisations like the UFC that are very serious about protecting fighters,” Geric said. “They bring in serious officials, the best in the business. Their primary goal is to look after fighters and now they’re working with USADA to eliminate any element of doping in their promotion. They regulate themselves in certain regions outside the U.S. and that can be acceptable because they’re so professional.

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“But no matter where you go there are unscrupulous promoters who focus more on maximising profit and sometimes fighters’ safety can suffer as a result.

“If it’s not regulated by the government, there should at least be sanctioning bodies to ensure that there are trained officials and the very best ringside physicians in attendance.

“You can’t have a manager acting as a promoter because that is a clear conflict of interests and there are safeguards in place in the U.S.A and many parts of Canada to protect against that.

“There are plenty of extremely competent officials who officiate in the UK and Ireland, with Neil Hall and Marc Goddard jumping to mind.

“The foundation is there for a great force of officials but regulation is definitely necessary moving forward.”

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Geric has been a vocal defender of MMA for some time, particularly this week when the legitimacy of the sport has been brought into question due to the tragic passing of Portuguese mixed martial artist Joao Carvalho in Dublin.

Anti-MMA members of the media have upped their criticism of the sport in the wake of the tragedy but Geric wants journalists to educate themselves about the genuine aspects of the sport before offering an ill-informed opinion on it.

“I’ve read about the tragedy. It’s incredibly sad,” Geric said. “I haven’t seen the fight so can’t comment on the aspects of it.

“But there are some reporters who will say things like ‘MMA is barbaric and the most dangerous sport in the world’ but those types of claims just don’t hold water.

“Statistically, it’s safer than so many other sports that aren’t shone in any negative light whatsoever. You look at dressage and equine sports, there are an awful lot more fatalities in those sports than there are in mixed martial arts.

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“Competitive cheerleading is incredibly dangerous. There are a lot of deaths related to that sport.

“MMA is a combat sport so of course it is dangerous for competitors but no more so than boxing and here’s why.

“In MMA there is no standing eight count like there is in boxing. What a standing eight count basically is is that a referee talks to a person who they know is injured and on the verge of concussion. The referee will stand them up and is essentially saying ‘go get hit again.’ That doesn’t exist in MMA.

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“Another reason that I believe that mixed martial arts is a lot safer than boxing is that there is more than one way to end a fight and we, as officials, have the ability to end a fight the moment that we suspect a fighter is done.

“I’ve seen fighters knock their opponent down and could easily have knocked them out but didn’t want to harm an already injured person. They decided to end the fight by submission rather than go for the brutal knockout. Options like that aren’t available in boxing.

“What I’d say to reporters who misrepresent MMA is to go to a gym, meet trainers, read up on it, do some research. Reporters’ responsibility is to portray accurate information. Failing to provide pertinent statistics which would properly convey the safety of a sport like MMA is a bit reckless.”