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Paul Lazenby: The problem with unsanctioned MMA

By Zach Arnold | April 5, 2009

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This is a re-print of his article from tonight

In 2007 I warned the Vancouver City Council that refusing to sanction MMA was only going to force the athletes to compete at the whims of potentially unscrupulous promoters, and therefore present a great danger to their health. Tonight, my prediction was borne out at Mike Hammoud’s AMA mixed martial arts event in North Vancouver.

Columbia Martial Arts’ Amber Grant (see previous entry for more on Columbia) participated in last night’s Valley Fight event in Chilliwack where she was taken down, mounted and pounded into submission by Sarah Moras well within the first round. But that apparently didn’t concern Columbia’s head trainer Goldie Kalsi, because both he and Grant were in attendance at tonight’s even where Grant was once again competing in a MMA fight just 24 hours after her defeat to Moras.

I brought this to the attention of event promoter Mike Hammoud, but was met with a blank stare as if to say “So?”. When I repeated my concerns, he replied: “Well, she has no concussion so it’s okay”. When I asked him how he knew that she’d suffered no cranial damage since he was just then finding out about Grant’s previous bout, he took a call on his cell phone and turned his back to me.

This is EXACTLY the sort of thing that I was talking about when I warned Vancouver City Council that we needed sanctioning for MMA. For every promotion like Valley Fight that can be counted on to do the right thing without supervision, there are a dozen promoters like Hammoud who care not a whit about the safety of the athletes as long as there’s money coming in.

People like Kalsi and Hammoud are exactly what the sport of MMA doesn’t need, especially at a time when we’re still pursuing recognition as a valid, viable sport in Vancouver’s lower mainland.

Paul Lazenby

Response from Goldie Kalsi to Paul Lazenby: Read your comments and I feel you should get some of your facts right be for you make anyone look bad, because after I talked to a certain someone you sure changed your story quickly. Next time come to the source and you may not look like a chump!

Topics: Canada, Media, MMA, Zach Arnold | 9 Comments » | Permalink | Trackback |

9 Responses to “Paul Lazenby: The problem with unsanctioned MMA”

  1. theYiffer says:

    With all due respect to Mr. Lazenby and Zack (since he posted this), but preventing fighters from making foolish decisions is a pretty weak reason for to bring sanctioning or oversight of MMA to any jurisdiction. I believe the only real reason for any type of regulation of MMA is the same reason Zuffa lobbies all over for, to bring about the sense of “legitimacy” to people whom are completely ignorant of the sport. I think we, for the most part, have been very lucky with the bureaucrats that have been placed in charge of many state commissions, preferably in Nevada and California. We may not always be so fortunate, case in point the greasing debacle from St. Piere vs. Penn II fight.

    The one thing many of us over look are that fighters are independent contractors. That means they’re in business for themselves. With the exception of any type of long term deal (because it is within a promotion’s financial best interest to help see to the health and well-being of a fighter they plan to put a lot of money behind) it is the fighter’s RESPONSIBILITY to make the right decisions in regards to his/her health. No one else’s.

    It’s cute how Lazenby is self-righteously looking out for poor, sweet, stupid Amber, and how he can now shake his finger proclaiming, “I told you so!” to the dunder-heads that make up the Vancouver City Council. In the case of Amber Grant, no unscrupulous promoter “forced” Amber to have second fight within 24 hours. If there were a sanctioning body during that fight, they would had legally restricted her from fighting a second time in Vancouver. Who’s to say if she wouldn’t flown to Japan or anywhere else that lacks a sanctioning body. Or better yet to another jurisdiction with a commission that doesn’t keep up with what occurs in Vancouver. Then it would had been for naught because some other evil promoter would had had the opportunity to use and abuse sweet, innocent Amber.

    If you want viability in the lower mainland of Vancouver, give local promoters the chance to create it, or better yet, have Strikeforce or the UFC run a show there. And stop your whining! That’s bad for the sport too.

  2. KennyP says:


    Wow! I don’t know where to begin.

    I agree that the primary responsibility for protection of health belongs to the fighter. But don’t confuse primary responsibility with sole responsibility. As we have seen countless examples in pro wrestling, boxing, football, auto racing, and even baseball, athletes will jeopardize their health, competitive ability, and sometimes risk the end of their life just to return to competition. Sometimes its the fear of ‘Wally Pipp’ replacement. Sometimes it’s the lure of the money. (Pro wrestling is full of ‘disabled’ performers.) Sometimes its the fear that missing a single game will lead to marginalization or termination (Think about football coach/fan attitudes towards concussions.) Sometimes athletes think that silently playing hurt will help their team, when the reverse is usually true (Baseball pitchers throwing through pain w/o informing the training staff). Sometimes the potential risks can jeopardize lives of athletes and fans (High-level auto racing typically requires sitting down concussed drivers for 7 days, plus drivers who suffered broken bones can only reenter a car after demonstrating ability to exit the car w/in ~5 seconds to avoid possibly burning alive.)

    I could list the hundreds of athletes who I have seen risk their careers and longterm health in order to return to competition. Most of those tried to return in spite of some level of externally-imposed obstacle toward returning to competition.

    What I know is that athletes (and coaches) cannot be trusted fully to protect themselves at all times when the financial rewards are so outsized for risking long-term health. They NEED to be protected from themselves.

    If sports are not sanctioned or contested within the limits of behavior that are socially acceptable, society will regard sport as an outlaw activity, nothing more than a modern day gladiator fight (I say this in all the bad ways.) At times in the last century, the US has considered prohibiting football and auto racing. More recently, numerous promoters and sports enterprises have been revealed to have allowed athletes to compete without promised (or contractually promised) levels of insurance.

    If MMA (or any other sport) is going to exist at a high level or just be recognized as a legitimate sporting activity, it needs to be regulated to ensure that the competition is legitimate, fighters are protected, and all contracted salaries are paid in full. Thinking that it will work any other way is myopic at best.

  3. Zach Arnold says:

    FWIW, I sent out notes to the parties named in the post by Lazenby for comment but didn’t receive word. If they do send back a counter-argument, I will immediately post it.

  4. KennyP says:

    One more note, i just recalled “Rapid Response” a memoir written by acclaimed racing doctor Steve Olvey. (Fascinating book btw) Olvey had noted that Indianapolis 500 drivers in the 1960s-70s often raced sprint/midget cars every night of the week. Numerous drivers from that era have given accounts of suffering a wreck. Several days later, those drivers would see an unfamiliar trophy in their house or a news clipping describing a race win that they didn’t even remember.

    Those drivers post-concussion symptoms included loss of memory for several days. Yet, during that ‘dark period’, those drivers strapped into 600hp race cars and risked the lives of themselves and everyone else at the track.

    Maybe they needed the money (dirt track racing doesn’t pay well), maybe they were afraid of being replaced in a good car, or maybe the science of the era didn’t understand concussion recovery. Whatever the reason, it wasn’t until sanctioning bodies (together with the insurance companies whose regulations and policies make pro auto racing possible) created safety standards that mandated medical exams and recovery periods that drivers stopped risking their lives by returning to the car too soon.

  5. Kamila says:

    It is funny how you Mr.Lazenby post your article, which is purely based upon your opinion and bashing trainers and promoters as oppose to facts. Yes, Amber Grant fought two nights in a row and that is a decision she made for herself. We as trainers and owners of Columbia Martial Arts have a responsibility to support our fighters and we also care about them very much. For the record Amber Grant was assessed by Doctors to see if any concussion occurred in the first fight. She was also assessed weather her injuries sustained in her first fight were detrimental. And upon conclusion she was healthy to proceed and fought the following night, in which once again she was re-assested weather she was ok. For the record Mike Hammoud and Goldie Kalsi have done their jobs to ensure the safety and well being of the Fighters. Sustaining minor marks on her face is was not detrimental to her health. Just so people know she dominated Racheal for 2–5 minute rounds in her second fight. In my opinion if she was as badly hurt from her first fight as you claim in your article, her injuries would have become evident in her second fight and they were clearly not. You wonder why people like Mike Hammound turn their back to you “You do not know the facts nor did you ask anyone”, you simply jump to conclusion and opinions quick quickly.


  6. Alan Conceicao says:

    As someone else with a copy of Rapid Response and a thorough knowledge of racing, I understand what you’re saying Kenny, but I don’t necessarily agree with the final conclusion. I could write a virtual novel about how attempts to compare the model of NASCAR to the UFC or MMA as a whole is horribly flawed, but I can’t see there being much interest among the fanbase. What I will say is that virtually none of the major touring series have any sort of neurological testing, and what does exist is largely done in house by major teams. The change from seeing drivers as active as they were in the 1960s and 1970s began with the influx of tobacco money at that time period. The amount of money that began to change hands made it so that drivers in upper echelon series could no longer afford to risk injury/death in lower rated series. Whereas many F1 drivers would partake in sports and touring car racing, F2, Indianapolis, and even the occasional NASCAR race 3 decades ago, that sort of activity rarely if ever happens today. The sponsors would’t go for it. Its more likely to happen in NASCAR, but even there the schedule has been cut back greatly compared to the older era of the sport.

    Where virtually nothing is changed is dirt track racing itself. I think the World Of Outlaws and 410 Sprints series still run somewhere around 70/80 dates a year with no drug or neurological testing. Vehicle and track safety has changed greatly though.

  7. Alan Conceicao says:

    Its also worth mentioning that we as fans don’t blink for a moment with one night tournaments, which have been held here on US soil and overseas. Did anyone worry about a concussed fighter moving on in the Strikeforce middleweight tournament?

  8. Paul Horton says:

    If Amber is stupid enough to endanger her life by fighting 24hours after she got GnP out then I have no sympathy for her. Personal Responsibility is something I find very important and if someone has no regard for themselves I don’t see why we need the government to come in and make a mess of everything (as they ALWAYS do) just to protect people form themselves…


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