Group hopes to legalize UFC-style fighting
Kevin Young hopes to stage professional mixed martial arts fights in Newfoundland and Labrador. Such bouts are currently against the law. Photo by Geraldine Brophy/The Western Star
St. John's - Peter Petipas describes himself as a very, very avid lover of mixed martial arts fighting.
That's the kind of combat made popular by Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC, as millions know it.
A third-year Memorial University student, Petipas says he spends a lot of cash attending pay per view events to watch these battles.
He also does his fair share of fight training.
"It's fun," he says when quizzed about the appeal.
For several months now, Petipas has been putting in a perhaps not-so-enjoyable effort on behalf of the sport that has him all fanatical.
He has been reworking legislation and attending meetings as he spearheads an initiative to get professional shootfighting - as mixed martial arts is also known - sanctioned as a combative sport in the province.
It's currently illegal, and to change that, he and a committee hope to get the province's Boxing Authority Act amended.
The boxing authority has actually dissolved, and Petipas' group - which includes an experienced sports doctor - wants to take it over it, perhaps under the guise of the provincial wrestling association.
"(Changing the law) will basically let us have any type of pro fight that we want, with the exception of kick-boxing, because they already have their own sanctioning body," he explains.
"We have our proposal done; we have all the amendments to the constitution and Boxing Authority Act, and all that fun stuff. We just have to get it approved by cabinet."
Petipas says that on Wednesday, he has a meeting with an official from Tourism, Culture and Recreation, the department that would examine the proposal and, if suitable, put it in front of the premier and his ministers.
"I just really want to see it come to Newfoundland," the Whitbourne resident says about why a guy in his early 20s is involved in an effort as weighty as trying to change legislation.
If and when the Petipas proposal gets rubber-stamped by cabinet, a mixed martial arts event could happen within months.
Corner Brook promoter Kevin Young hopes to stage King of the Cage - a popular shootfighting set-up that battles in five countries - as soon as possible.
He'd most likely do so in the St. John's area.
"I'm sure it will do good," he says, noting there are a lot of fight fans in the province.
Young actually helped get Petipas involved in the mixed martial arts mission through - what else? - a Facebook site.
It would be a conflict for a promoter to be part of a sanctioning body, so he started the Facebook group, "King of the Cage in Newfoundland?"
Through the now 1,700-plus member site, he asked for someone to take the bull by the horns and try to get the legislation altered.
Petipas joined the group and the muscular MUN student - who is also a varsity wrestler - grabbed the bull.
"He's kind of excited about this coming as well," Young says, showing a masterful knowledge of understatement.
Besides giving fans a chance to see live shootfighting, sanctioning the sport would give aspiring pro pugilists from this province an opportunity to enter the fray, which usually takes place in a multi-sided cage.
Currently, combatants from these parts have to fight elsewhere to test their mixed martial arts mettle.
Giving them a chance to fight here is Petipas' main motivation.
Both he and Young say there are lots of fighters from these parts who want to shootfight for Newfoundland, in Newfoundland. (See sidebar.)
Eight to 10 locals, Petipas says, would take part in inaugural event and be a big part of the draw.
"Who are you going to see?" he asks, before answering. "Some guy that's coming over from Amsterdam you've probably never heard of, or a buddy of yours who you've been drinking with the past five or six years?"
Both Petipas and Young acknowledge that some people are opposed to the sport, but say those against it should actually watch a match before panning it.
"They are looking at the sport kind of as a blood sport, which is the way a lot of people look at it," says Young, noting he has defended shootfighting many times.
"But if you actually watch a sport, especially the ending or even throughout the fight, you get to see a lot of classy gentlemen who are in there showing their athletic abilities, but at the same time, appreciating their opponents. You don't see hatred. You don't see people at the end of the fight hating each other because they lost. You see people hugging. You see them shaking hands. You see them bowing to each other. This is a sport of honour more than blood."
Petipas allows that fights can get bloody, but says that's part of the strategy.
A referee, he explains, will stop a match if someone is bleeding excessively, and some fighters try to win using that method.
Still, Young and Petipas maintain it is a safe sport, where referees and judges ensure the safety of combatants.
Petipas stresses that mixed martial arts is a lot safer than boxing.
"It's more pinpoint accurate," he says. "None of this is like getting hit with a sledgehammer."
A spokeswoman for the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation declined comment on Petipas'' effort.
It would be premature, she said, to speak on the matter before officials receive and go through the proposal.
Ontario, Petipas notes, is the only other province where pro shootfighting events are illegal.