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Emmanuel Joiner, left, and Adam Faulk battle in a middle-weight cage-fighting bout Friday night in Hartselle.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
Emmanuel Joiner, left, and Adam Faulk battle in a middle-weight cage-fighting bout Friday night in Hartselle.

Hartselle to seek AG’s opinion on legality of cage-fighting events

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Is cage fighting legal?

That’s something Hartselle city leaders don’t know, so they will seek an attorney general’s opinion.

Wait a minute, says attorney Catherine Halbrooks. She represents the man who is hosting cage fighting in Hartselle. She is accusing the council of trying to put a good businessman out of business.

Robert Clairday, who is sponsoring cage fighting in Hartselle, owns Clairday’s Karate & Gymnastics Studios on Chestnut Street.

“He has been holding these kind of events in Hartselle for almost 25 years,” Halbrooks said.

Mayor Dwight Tankersley denies the lawyer’s claim that Hartselle is trying to put Clairday out of business.

He said the crux of the matter is whether Hartselle should have a boxing commission to sanction the events.

“It’s for this reason that our city attorney doesn’t feel like this may be legal,” Tankersley said. “This is the reason we want to get an attorney general’s opinion to clear up the matter.”

The mayor said a councilman, who heard a complaint about cage fighting, brought the issue to his office.

“I went to the city attorney and he recommended that we get an attorney general’s opinion,” Tankersley said.

Some downtown residents don’t care about legality. They want spectators to stop parking in the streets near their homes and in their driveways.

Betty Miller called police after returning home to find her driveway occupied and the alley to the back of her townhouse blocked.

Threat alleged

After talking with the police, Miller alleges that one of the spectators told her to be careful about what she said because her car or home could be damaged.

A packed house at Friday night’s cage-fighting event at a warehouse across from Hartselle City Hall.
Daily photo by Jonathan Palmer
A packed house at Friday night’s cage-fighting event at a warehouse across from Hartselle City Hall.
“I told him I don’t live under a threat,” she said. “We live here, and we ought to be able to live here peaceably. A lot of people around here are afraid to speak out, but I’m not.”

The cage-fighting events are less than 50 yards from City Hall and the Police Department in a building that is zoned commercial.

“If they meet all the legal requirements, there is nothing we can do, and I personally don’t have a problem with it,” Council President Kenny Thompson said.

Thompson said he has seen signs in other cities advertising the events in Hartselle.

Bigger building

He said Clairday has talked with the city about moving the fights to a bigger building on Sparkman Street.

“Before he moves all of his equipment, we want to make sure this is legal,” Thompson said.

Halbrooks said one of the problems people have with her client is the words — cage fighting.

“People hear the word cage fighting and they drum up a picture that is incorrect,” she said.

Similar to boxing

Halbrooks said cage fighting is similar to boxing. Participants are paired by weight classification. They use a 10-point scoring system. This means the fighters fight three 90-second rounds and judges award 10 points to the winner at the end of each round. The fighter winning two of the rounds advances.

The finalists fight three, three-minute rounds with the winner receiving the prize money, Halbrooks said.

Before moving his business to Chestnut Street, Clairday occasionally rented Sparkman Civic Center to host the events.

Halbrooks said city officials are “overstepping what they should do” and trying to close down Clairday. She said she’s not sure what the council is trying to do by getting an attorney general’s opinion.

He, the attorney said referring to her client, is cooperating with the city and doing everything they want.

“He’s trying to make the same living he has made here for about 25 years,” Halbrooks said.

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