Out of control.
That's the only way to describe how the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission is kicking off 2010.
Arbitrary rule changes, fee increases and general pain-in-the-ass ineptitude aside, two occurrences in the past 30 days underline why promoters, managers and fighters are seeing red, and why Edmonton city council should seriously consider an in-depth investigation into the shadowy workings of its newly "streamlined" combative sports commission.
The first happened on Dec. 17, when, without any formal input or vote by the commission, ECSC executive director Pat Reid confirmed in a news release issued by Colloseo Championship Fighting that Edmonton has approved Japanese "Dream" rules for the upcoming CCF 5 mixed martial arts show, rather than the standard Unified Rules for MMA.
"I am confirming that (promoter) Mr. (Pasqualino) Santoro will be using Dream rules in Edmonton in the new year," Reid told Top MMA News website. According to the release, the ECSC boss discussed the switch with referee John Braak, who assured him that he could officiate the event, and with ESCS doctors, who "were satisfied they could provide medical safeguards at the event."
The Japanese rules have been universally panned as excessively dangerous and difficult to enforce, even by hard-core MMA supporters.
For those unaware, here are a few of the differences between Dream rules and the Unified Rules of MMA:
* Knee strikes to the head of a downed opponent are allowed.
* Shoes can be worn in the ring.
* Only two rounds of fighting: a 10-minute first round, followed by a five-minute second round.
* Kicks to the head of a downed opponent are allowed when both fighters are down.
The website story ominously concludes with: "This is the first North American usage of Dream rules that Top MMA News is aware of. It is interesting to note that while most commissions seem to be working towards a single set of rules that Edmonton would head in the opposite direction."
If that's not enough of a red flag to prod city councillors into investigating the inner workings of the ECSC, perhaps they should check out the circumstances surrounding the commission's approval and licensing of Ohio boxer Etianne Whitaker, who was knocked out in 39 seconds by Adam Trupish on the Jan. 8 Up and Comers II pro-am card at The Palace banquet hall.
Whitaker, inactive since 2008, had been knocked out in his two previous fights and was under suspension from the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission at the time he signed to fight Trupish -- a fact the ECSC somehow overlooked. There was also an addendum to Whitaker's international FightFax file (available through a simple phone call) that any commission considering licensing him "must contact Pennsylvania" for the details concerning his suspension.
Neither the executive director nor any other member of the ECSC bothered to do so. Thanks to that non-compliance with their own rules, a visiting fighter might have suffered a serious injury.
I've been covering professional boxing in the City of Champions for more than 25 years. Over that time, several commissions and several executive directors have come and gone. They were all good, dedicated professionals who respected the sport and fought hard to preserve its integrity.
It appears those days are gone.