Following police complaint, New Quebec federation’s amateur event cancelled
Arts Martiaux Mixte Amateur Quebec (AMMAQ), the province’s new amateur MMA federation, was off to a shaky start Friday after a complaint to the provincial police lead to the cancellation of Saturday’s Impakt Fight Night 4 event in Longueuil, south of Montreal. The show would have acted as the new federation’s official debut.
The cancellation could hint at future difficulty not only for the AMMAQ, but also for amateur MMA as a whole in the province. Despite a long history of operation in Quebec, amateur, also known as ‘boxe mixte,’ does not enjoy pro MMA’s protection from the infamous, prize-fight banning section 83 of the Canadian Criminal Code. The provincial police, known as the Sureté Quebec (SQ), aren’t prone to shutting down events however unless a complaint is officially lodged with them.
According to the AMMAQ’s director of operations Joey Benoit, SQ officers visited the Motel Royal Labarre Friday, where the event was set to take place the following night. The owners were told a complaint against the amateur MMA show had been made by an anonymous party, and warned the motel could face problems in the future when renewing their liquor license if they went forward. (Calls to the SQ officer in charge of the case for confirmation of the version of events and the complainant’s identity were were not returned).
Benoit, who was set to run the event, says he was also visited by police at his home, but wanted to go ahead regardless.
“I can’t know who made the complaint unless the show happens and the police press charges,” said Benoit, who is also Ringside MMA’s match-maker. “If it’s cancelled, the case is closed, charges are dropped, and I never find out. The motel’s management didn’t want to risk it though.” Efforts to find a new location on short notice were unsuccessful, leading to the cancellation.
For most of its history, amateur MMA was solely governed in-province by the Federation Quebecoise de Boxe Mixte Amateur (FQBM). Though never officially recognized, the FQBM was able to hold events around Quebec with the provincial government’s tepid acceptance.
While Benoit was holding events under the Summum banner as part of the FQBM, two 2011 shows, in August and November, relocated on short notice following complaints to the SQ similar to the one leading to Saturday’s cancellation. Because he moved both times, the complainant’s identity remains unknown.
Citing dissatisfaction with the existing set of rules and regulations, Benoit and former pro fighter Stephane Dubé soon after decided to start a new amateur federation, with new rules as an alternative. Originally called the FQAMMA, it was later renamed the AMMAQ.
The announcement met with a frigid response by members of the existing FQBM, who banded together to oppose the new entry.
Speaking after the the AMMAQ’s formation, FQBM promoters, who are also owners of the member MMA gyms where events usually take place, clarified that their shows were a way not only to promote their up-and-coming fighters, but also a way to help pay the bills for their gyms.
Benoit, who wasn’t directly associated with any single home gym while holding his Summum events, was seen as an outsider trying to make money for himself. He disagrees with the characterization.
“The FQBM wants a monopoly on regulation to help gyms survive,” he said. “I didn’t do this to make money. I do this to create better rules, and structure the sport to help improve it. The gyms currently under the FQBM could do shows under my federation, but they don’t want to.”
Saturday’s cancelled event was set to feature the first three amateur MMA bouts officially sanctioned by the AMMAQ, as well as nine amateur muay thai fights sanctioned by the separate Quebec Amateur Thai Boxing Federation, who were not named in the police complaint.
Benoit insists he intends to continue moving forward despite the setback. “I filed papers with the government’s Ministere de l’Education, Loisirs, et Sports,” says Benoit, referring to the provincial ministry responsible for Quebec amateur sports. “I’m still awaiting approval. They told me I should get approved if I held events. But events aren’t technically legal. If I’m illegal, then every amateur show is illegal, including the FQBM’s.”
Citing danger of a reciprocal war, he says he doesn’t intend to respond to his cancellation by calling the SQ on FQBM promoters. “Whoever called may have hurt himself,” said Benoit, hinting at the possibility that a rival lodged the complaint. “The whole sport could get frozen until its regulated.”
Without the support of FQBM gyms, Benoit says he was thus far able to get six MMA schools under his federation’s banner, including the Ottawa Academy of Martial Arts (OAMA). A recent Rumour Mill hinted at the potential holding of an event in Gatineau.
An FQBM event, also in Longueuil, will still go forward Saturday at the Orion gym. When contacted, a gym representative denied any involvement in the police complaint, mirroring Benoit’s comment that bringing negative police attention to the amateur sport in general would be dangerous for him. (Efforts to reach Fernand Morneau, head of the FQBM, for comment on the situation were unsuccessful).
Follow Julian Cymbalista-Clapp on Twitter @ JulianCClapp