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Cage fighting is legal, AG says

By Deangelo McDaniel
dmcdaniel@decaturdaily.com 340-2469

HARTSELLE — Cage fighting is not illegal and a 1935 state Supreme Court ruling may make it difficult for Hartselle to ban the sport.

In a four-page opinion to Mayor Dwight Tankersley, the attorney general's office said Alabama law does not regulate cage fighting.

But that doesn't mean Hartselle can't regulate the event "to provide for the safety and health of the residents of the community," Brenda Smith, assistant attorney general, wrote.

Hartselle also may require sponsors of cage fighting to buy a license, and the city can levy sales and use taxes on the events, she said.

"We will discuss this with our city attorney during a work session, when the entire council is present," Tankersley said.

Until city rules are in place to govern the sport, the mayor said, cage fighting will continue in Hartselle unregulated.

Robert Clairday, who has been putting on cage fighting in Hartselle for 25 years and has been at the center of the controversy, said he's not surprised by the ruling.

"I tried to tell the council all along that it was legal, but they wanted to run my business out of town and they succeeded," he said.

Clairday has a cage-fighting event scheduled for Celebration Arena in Priceville on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. He's also looking to carry his ring to Huntsville, Decatur and Ardmore.

As for Hartselle, he said, it's unlikely that he will hold another cage-fighting event in the city.

"They've cost me a lot of money and grief," he said, about the council. "They've had the fire marshal to look at every building where I have ever held an event. It's been ignorance on the part of the mayor and council, and they had their 15 minutes of fame."

City leaders have denied allegations that they were trying to put Clairday out of business.

Councilman Bill Drake was the first to question the legality of cage fighting after seeing advertisements for the event throughout the city.

Tankersley carried the question to City Attorney Larry Madison. He suggested an attorney general's opinion, but only after checking with the Alabama Athletic Commission.

That organization refused to issue an opinion.

Madison then forwarded the question to the attorney general's office.

The attorney general said the commission is responsible for rules and regulations that govern boxing and wrestling.

Smith said the "plain meaning" of boxing and wrestling does not include martial arts or mixed martial arts.

Therefore, the sports commission has no jurisdiction over cage fighting, the opinion states.

Hartselle, however, can govern cage fighting with city ordinances. But, an outright ban is illegal unless the city finds that the sport is harmful to the public welfare, health, safety or morals, Smith wrote.

"Essentially, the AG has left it up to city governments to regulate and tax the event, if they choose," Tankersley said.

Clairday said he expects Hartselle to adopt rules, making it impossible for cage fighting to be in the city.

"It's their loss because Hartselle won't be getting the tax revenue," he said.

Priceville fight

There will be a cage-fighting event at Celebration Arena in Priceville on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

Robert Clairday

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