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Fire marshal to investigate site of Hartselle cage fighting

By Deangelo McDaniel 340-2469

HARTSELLE — A picture in The Decatur Daily on Aug. 26 has the state fire marshal questioning whether a building used for cage fighting meets state codes.

The building, which is across from City Hall at Sparkman and Chestnut streets, will get a thorough inspection Thursday.

"He drove up unannounced last Thursday and came to my office," Mayor Dwight Tankersley said.

State Fire Marshal Edward S. Paulk was not available for comment. But, according to the mayor, someone forwarded him a picture of a standing-room-only crowd at an Aug. 24 cage-fighting event in Hartselle.

The big issues are probably going to be the capacity of the building and the lack of a sprinkler system, the mayor said.

A sign on the door from the city's Department of Development puts the building's capacity at 954.

"The state fire marshal may have a different opinion, but what he says is what they will have to do to hold cage fighting there," Tankersley said.

The city and Robert Clairday, who is sponsoring cage fighting in Hartselle, have been at odds since Councilman Bill Drake questioned the legality of the activity.

City attorney Larry Madison has said prize fighting and mutual combat are illegal in Alabama.

"You can't consent to have yourself assaulted," Madison said during the council's Aug. 28 meeting.

Madison is seeking an opinion from the Alabama Athletic Commission about the legality of the sport.

If the commission says it's legal, the attorney said, he will not seek an opinion from the attorney general.

Clairday and his attorney, Catherine Halbrooks, have argued that the sport is legal.

Clairday said he has been holding cage-fighting events in Hartselle for about 25 years. Posters in the building on Sparkman Street and signs on U.S. 31 in Decatur are advertising cage fighting in Hartselle on Sept. 22.

If Clairday addresses the fire marshal's concerns and complies with city ordinances, the council can do nothing to stop cage fighting, Tankersley said.

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