Mixed martial arts in Canada is set for a victory as Parliament looks to pass a bill that removes the sport from its legal chokehold.
Bill S-209 sponsor, Sen. Bob Runciman, said Wednesday he's "optimistic" it will pass with all-party support before the end of the session.
MMA — billed as the world's fastest growing sport — is currently in a legal grey zone due to a 79-year-old section of the criminal code that deals with prizefighting.
Currently, being involved in a prizefight — defined as "an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons" — is a summary conviction offence.
Only boxing matches are exempt, meaning MMA events —even those given the official OK from provinces or municipalities — are technically in breach of the law.
"Provinces are forced to skirt the law to allow these events to go ahead," Runciman told MPs at the Commons justice committee, studying Bill S-209.
The bill would update the definition of prizefights under the code, extending the exemption to MMA and International Olympic Committee combat sports.
Tom Wright, director of operations for Canada, Australia and New Zealand for the Ultimate Fighting Championship — a world MMA promoter — urged MPs to give the sport legal clarity.
"No one has ever filed a complaint (against an event), but it just provides that cloak of uncertainty," he said.
Wright also brushed off concerns raised by organizations such as the Canadian Medical Association over the dangers of the sport, citing research indicating concussions were less common among MMA fighters than boxers.