There is a general athlete pathway in Mixed Martial Arts. Most often a fighter will have between two and four amateur fights and then begin their professional career if they are successful. Professional careers often begin on a local scale and once fighters build up enough skill and experience, they can move up the ranks to bigger promotions.
However, there are many issues facing local fighters that hinder their progression in the sport. To begin, prize fighting hasn’t always been legal in New Brunswick. After changes to a federal law in 2013 that made prize fighting legal, New Brunswick was slow to jump on board, leaving many fighters without a local platform to compete. It wasn’t until May 21st, 2014 that the New Brunswick Combative Sport Act received royal assent and legalized the sport in the province.
Another problem experienced locally since the legalization of the sport is the emergence of ‘not so reputable’ promotions. Like anything else in the Maritimes, there’s always someone trying to make a quick buck, even if it isn’t the most honest business model around.
“Without calling anyone out, it’s tough for local fighters to find a good promotion that treats them right,” said amateur Saint John MMA fighter Christien Savoie. “It’s hard, you know, you almost have to find out the hard way and actually get involved with a promotion to find out if they’re legit or not.”
Similarly to bigger promotions, local fighting organizations have difficulty enforcing rules and regulations surrounding performance-enhancing drugs. If the UFC is having trouble enforcing these rules, you can imagine how hard it is for a local promotion.
“I would say it’s probably the biggest problem in the sport, whether were talking about big promotions such as the UFC and Bellator or just small time local promotions here in the Maritimes. It’s really dangerous, and it’s really disrespectful. Our job is to go out there and hurt our opponent, and if someone is taking performance enhancing drugs someone can get seriously injured. I think the only way were going to realize that there’s a problem is when it’s too late, and someone gets badly hurt,” said Savoie.
On top of all that it seems to be a trend in the local MMA scene that fighters often drop out of fights leaving many without an opponent, and more importantly without a paycheck.
There are positives however, the sport is growing and it can only get better as acknowledged by Savoie,
“It’s been amazing to see the evolution of the sport here in the Maritimes. I’ve watched since I was young progress and continue to grow. Fighters around here are getting better and better, promotions are getting more and more legitimate, and overall it’s really cool to see and I’m excited to watch it continue to grow.