Does the MFC’s Ban on Women’s MMA Violate Human Rights Legislation?


No Women AllowedWith MMA’s ever growing popularity comes a greater need to comply with legislative requirements. This is clearly in the long term interests of the sport and will help accelerate mainstream acceptance. With this in mind, Mark Pavelich, the outspoken CEO of Canada’s largest Mixed Martial Arts organization (the MFC), voiced recent comments worthy of scrutiny.

In an interview given earlier this week, Pavelich reiterated his long held views that woman’s MMA has no place in his organization.

Pavelich is quoted as saying “And don’t forget too, I’ve always said ‘I’m never going to put female MMA in my organization.’…I personally will never have it. And it’s no disrespect to female MMA fighters, because I do have an overabundance of respect for them“

His reason for this policy?

“It’s my only personal issue that I just don’t like to see females hitting each other. I really don’t, it’s maybe something weird in my brain, but I just don’t like the visual of that happening.“

Now, we are all entitled to our views and not everyone is a fan of MMA or WMMA. That said, can an Alberta fighting organization take such a stance? Likely not, given Section 7 of the Alberta Human Rights Act which stipulates that:

7(1) No employer shall
(a) refuse to employ or refuse to continue to employ any
person…because of gender

But can’t it be argued that the MFC is not an employer but instead an organization which obtains the services of independent contractors? Probably not given the “broad, liberal and purposive interpretation” that Canadian Courts give to Human Rights legislation. The Alberta Human Rights Commission provides the following expansive summary of “employment” situations in the Human Rights context:

Alberta courts have considered the definition of employment in human rights legislation in a number of cases including those cited below.1 In Cormier, the court defined an employment relationship as “any contract in which one person agrees to execute any work or labour for another.” In Bugis, the court stated that to employ is “to utilize.” Under human rights law, courts and human rights tribunals have found employment relationships in situations which are broader than conventional ideas of what is “employment.” Independent contractors, subcontractors, taxi drivers, army cadets and volunteers have all been found to be in employment relationships under human rights legislation and therefore protected against discrimination.

MMA and Woman’s MMA have been growing at an unprecedented pace with greater mainstream acceptance by the day. MMA organizations hosting events in Canada would do well to stay with the times and the ever clearer defined boundaries regulating this sport. As the UFC has demonstrated over the past 20 years, embracing legislation and regulation are not only good for the growth of the sport, WMMA is as well.


Erik Magraken is a personal injury litigator and Partner with the British Columbia law-firm MacIsaac & Company. The article was re-printed with permission from his Canadian MMA Law Blog.



16 Responses to “ Does the MFC’s Ban on Women’s MMA Violate Human Rights Legislation? ”

  1. The little girl pavelich is says:

    Cant have women mma because he can’t control womens pay or contract cause they’ll just kick the shit out of him,

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 4 Thumb down 9

  2. K.Rasmuss says:

    I think the editor of this story has taken this issue out of context . For starters this isn’t a regular employment job . Mark has a promotion to run and he and every other promoter has the right to pick and employ at their choice .
    What next are big Fat guys that are not getting fights going to start crying foul ?
    If the fighters want to be unionized , thats fine . It will be the end of small promotions . I am all for the union ! But not in the fight business .
    I think this Law firm should be concentrating on commissions and regulations .
    My answer is No ! the MFC is not violating human rights .
    This simply is the business where a promoter can choose his fighters to keep bisiness going good.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 14 Thumb down 4

  3. Jamie Locke says:

    This article is rather foolish, promoters can pick whoever they want to fight for them for any reason they want.

    Also, even though Mark also said he’d never have guys with losing records fight for him, clearly that’s gone out the window.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 16 Thumb down 1

  4. Keepin' It Real says:

    No sister vs. sister? My life is ruined.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  5. Keepin' It Real says:

    Grienke beat me to it. Damn.

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  6. Darren Owen says:

    CANADA’s largest MMA promotion has 4 events per year in the same city with majority of their main card fighter being AMERICANS and no depth in any weightclass? Canada’s MMA scene must be in a sad state if that is the largest promotion in our country.

    I’d be fine with longest running or highest profile TV deal but calling it the largest… I would disagree.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 20 Thumb down 4

  7. Joe Doerksen says:

    Keepin’ it Real beat me to it… ha ha ha

    MFC may have at one time been the biggest show in country, not anymore. They’ve never left Edmonton. That’s not a national show. And before you tell me they went to Ontario, I will tell you that Mark looked me right in the eyes at an Ontario show and said, “Hey guys, I’m not the promoter here. That’s the casino.”

    Just sayin…

    Biggest show in the country would not promote a Brother vs Brother match on it’s card. If it did, then mma in this country fuckin sucks.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 18 Thumb down 4

  8. Gunner says:

    why can’t we all just get along….. I just asked for a heavyweight fight so damn it if I was your brother Joe D I would fight you , you sumabiotch! Hell even if I was your drunken sister I would knuckle rub you!

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  9. Demitri (trev) says:

    no sister vs sister fight. Disappointed

    But in all honesty, does mark actually believe he is the biggest show in Canada? Listening to him makes me hate life.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 6 Thumb down 1

  10. AFC>MFC says:

    The MFC is like the AFC’s ugly long lost sister… She’s there, but noone really talks about her or ever wants to deal with her

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 3

  11. Joe Doerksen says:

    Gunner I should have some free time to travel in August if all goes well. Keep up your smack talk and I’d be happy to stop in and kick you in the nutz.

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  12. Mike Russell says:

    No different than the NHL or MLB not allowing women to play on their male teams. Not a human rights issue, IMO.

    Well-loved! Thumb up 8 Thumb down 1

  13. Thanks everyone for your comments. I appreciate the dialogue.

    One point worth noting is most major leagues such as the NHL and NFL do not have ‘no woman allowed’ policies. If a female athlete could make the cut based on merit there is no internal barrier to participation.

    Some valid points raised relate to issues other than gender justifying an organizations exclusion of WMMA. This is fair enough. If there is no market demand for the sport or if there is not sufficient depth in the sport for an organization to field a WMMA event that is one thing. It is quite another to justify the exclusion for the voiced reason of “I’m never going to put female MMA in my organization.’

    Like it or not Human Rights Tribunals have a very far reach in Canada. Their reach is so far that they can even override freedom of speech if it is found to be discriminatory as recently held by the Supreme Court of Canada.

    Given this reality it is important to appreciate that there is nothing unique about MMA that would exclude it from the jurisdiction of Human Rights legislation. Consider it this way – imagine an employer or a person who retains contractors stating that “I will never hire females for my (fill in the blank, plumbing, contracting, etc) company”. With the reason being that “its my only personal issue that I just don’t like to see females (doing this kind of work)” You would quickly have an employer in hot water.

    I also appreciate the comments that MMA organizations deal with contractors, not employees. However, as discussed above, Human Rights Tribunals don’t use this as a barrier to their reach. Like it or not this is a real legal issues organizations in Canada can face.

    Accepting this, the question is what can be done. I suggest that organizations keep an open mind to including WMMA when the business model can support this expansion instead of having a closed door policy to the issue.

    Many on this forum will remember the rough road to acceptance that MMA has faced over the past 20 years. It’s a shame if many of the same individuals who paved the path for MMAs’s growth and public acceptance put up barriers for the growth of WMMA.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 7 Thumb down 5

  14. AMLEHTC says:

    As much as I think Mark is a dipshit, I think he just doesn’t have the space so to speak yet to have women’s fights. He’s just adding the lighter weight categories on this next card. He’s behind in terms of adding new things to his organization. Should the lighter weight classes have filed against Mark for not letting them fight at their weight class, no that’s ridiculous. I could see him eventually putting WMMA in the future, after he’s had some success with adding the lighter weight classes if he does. I think this getting blown out of proportion just because he looks like KD Lang

    Well-loved! Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  15. alex says:

    short answer: no

    long answer: Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo

    Thumb up 4 Thumb down 1

  16. I don’t want to get bogged down in a legal debate but the short answer is, in fact, likely yes.

    If you want a long answer you can visit the original post and scroll down to the comments for a legal analysis provided by a Canadian Human Rights lawyer.

    Appreciating that MMA organizations can come under the scrutiny of these tribunals, the focus is best shifted to how organizations should address this reality.

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