Mixed martial arts wins fight to host events in Vernon

Events give local athletes a leg up, benefit city

Vernon’s Rylie Marchand, at a fight in Lethbridge in November 2018, is too young to legally fight in Mixed Martial Arts events in B.C. but can compete in other provinces. (Unity MMA image)

With the city in its corner, mixed martial arts has come out of the ring victorious.

MMA events are now permitted in Vernon, since council rescinded a 2014 bylaw that banned the fights.

See 2014 background: Mixed martial arts ban on hold in Vernon

The ban was originally put in place due to concerns from the city about the “apparent involvement of organized crime in MMA events.”

But Vernon-North Okanagan RCMP Supt. Shawna Baher has investigated this theory and says that is not the case.

In fact, she is only concerned about the combination of liquor and the potential for audience fights to erupt and therefore recommends overtime officers are brought in to police the events at the expense of the promoters.

“As with any event that serves alcohol I would be more concerned with the behaviour of individuals within the audience attempting to emulate what they observed during and after the event,” said Baher in her report to Vernon council.

See: Vernon contemplates mixed martial arts events

Vernon’s Unity MMA head coach Raja Kler is thrilled with the decision to bring events back to town.

“I look forward to seeing future events for our competitors to showcase their skills in our hometown. The sport has grown and evolved quite a bit over the last few years and has become mainstream. You can see now with the UFC being on ESPN as well you can watch any of these events on pay-per-view,” said Kler.

“I am very excited to see my sport and art grow as well as being able for Unity’s competitors and athletes to showcase their skills and promote the art in Vernon. I would like to say a special thanks to Kelly Fehr and all the members of city council and all the supporters out there. I have only heard positive responses.”

See: Vernon’s Unity MMA strikes gold

It is also great news for the six local athletes who normally have to spend a lot of time and money to travel to events.

Like 27-year-old Kenny Pope, who won first round rear naked choke for Welterweight title in Vancouver on Feb. 22.

Vernon is actually ideal for fights, added Kler, due to being near both Kamloops and Kelowna.

“Very central and if we can rent the right venues there will be a good future in Vernon for MMA and our athletes,” he said.

Meanwhile provincial age restrictions still prohibit Vernon’s Rylie Marchand from competing. Despite being at the top of her class, Marchand is 17 and the B.C. Athletic Commissioner rules do not allow anyone under 19 to fight. She can still do exhibition grappling matches.

See: Vernon’s Unity MMA fighters show heart

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Kenny Pope won in the first round by way of a rear naked choke to take the Welterweight title in Vancouver Feb. 22. (Unity MMA image)

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