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Is cage fighting legal?
Athletic Commission refers Hartselle’s question to Web site list

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — The Alabama Athletic Commission has refused to tell Hartselle whether cage fighting is illegal.

Instead, the commission referred the city to its Web site to review sports it regulates.

“There was nothing on there like cage fighting,” Mayor Dwight Tankersley said. “That’s why we are going to the attorney general for an opinion.”

On Friday, Tankersley mailed a letter to Attorney General Troy King asking if cage fighting is legal, and if so, subject to amusement and entertainment taxation.


Robert Clairday, a martial arts instructor in Hartselle, hosts the events. The city is not questioning whether karate or other martial arts are legal.

Tankersley concedes state law regulates boxing, wrestling and even one section of the code mentions sparring.

But the letter to the attorney general says Hartselle is not aware of any law permitting cage fighting.

“Because these events involve fighting, which cannot be characterized as boxing, wrestling or even sparring alone, and particularly because competition for money is involved and admission is charged, we would like to know whether the activity is legal,” the letter states.

Clairday said he has been holding cage fighting in Hartselle for about 25 years. He and his attorney, Catherine Halbrooks, believe the sport is legal and have accused the city of trying to put Clairday out of business.

The city denies the allegations.

Councilman Bill Drake was the first to question the legality of the sport after seeing signs advertising an August event.

“If it’s legal, I’m good with it,” Drake said.

City attorney Larry Madison told the council prize fighting and mutual combat are illegal in Alabama. He said you can’t consent to have yourself assaulted.

In another development, State Fire Marshal Edward S. Paulk is determining whether the building where Clairday holds cage fighting meets state standards.

Paulk was in the city Thursday and Friday to inspect a building across from City Hall at Sparkman and Chestnut streets.

City leaders said someone forwarded a picture to Faulk that The Decatur Daily published Aug. 26. The picture shows a standing-room-only crowd at an Aug. 24 cage-fighting event in Hartselle.


A sign on the door from the city’s Department of Development puts the building’s capacity at 954, but the big issue is that the old car dealership building has no sprinkler system.

Tankersley said Faulk inspected Sparkman Civic Center on Thursday, where Clairday has held events.

He said the city will not allow rings for boxing, wrestling or cage fighting in the facility anymore because those have damaged the gymnasium floor.

Fighting questions

The city of Hartselle has submitted these questions to the attorney general:

  • Is “cage fighting” a legal activity in the state of Alabama?

  • If “cage fighting” is legal, is it subject to licensing as other businesses, particularly entertainment or amusement activities?

  • If “cage fighting” is legal, is it subject to amusement taxation as other public entertainment involving admission or participation charges?

    City of Hartselle

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