Hartselle establishes cage-fighting regulations
Promoter plans to close business in next 30 days, citing limits on attendance
By Deangelo McDaniel
HARTSELLE — If you’re going to host cage-fighting in Hartselle, you will need a physician or licensed paramedic to clear fighters before they get into the ring.
That’s one of the regulations city leaders agreed to put in their ordinance.
The City Council also will require hosts of these events to carry liability insurance and will regulate the ages of participants.
If you’re 19, you can participate after being cleared by a physician or paramedic.
If you are 18, you will need your parent’s consent.
At the request of Police Chief Ron Puckett, city leaders agreed to prohibit anyone under 18 from participating.
“We’re not going to ban this, but we have to worry about the city’s liability,” Mayor Dwight Tankersley said before Wednesday’s work session.
Robert Clairday, a promoter of cage fighting in Hartselle, said he already requires fighters to have pre- and post-fight checkups.
But regardless of what rules the city adopts, Clairday said, he’s not returning to Hartselle and will have his business of 25 years closed within 30 days.
“I wanted to tell you guys that it’s over with in Hartselle for me,” he said. “My hands are tied, and I can’t keep my business in Hartselle.”
Clairday said he uses in-house events like cage fighting to supplement his karate studio.
But because the state fire marshal has restricted how many people he can have in his building near Chestnut and Sycamore streets, Clairday said, he can’t host cage fighting.
Clairday accused the council of putting him out of business.
“I will be out of the city within 30 days because I have been handcuffed,” he said.
“Now, wait a minute,” Councilman Mark Mizell said. “You brought attention to yourself and the situation by going to the television stations.”
Councilman Bill Drake was the first to question the legality of the sport after seeing advertisements for it throughout the city. He denied calling the fire marshal.
“The only question I asked is if it was legal,” Drake said. “I said if it’s legal, I’m good with it.”
Tankersley questioned City Attorney Larry Madison about the legality of cage fighting, and Madison suggested that the council seek an opinion from the state attorney general.
In a four-page opinion, the attorney general’s office said state law does not prohibit cage fighting and a 1935 state Supreme Court ruling makes it difficult for Hartselle to ban the sport.
But Hartselle can regulate cage fighting “to provide for the safety and health of the residents of the community,” wrote Brenda Smith, assistant attorney general.
She said Hartselle may also require sponsors of cage fighting to buy a license, and the city can levy sales and use taxes on the events.
Smith said an outright ban is illegal unless the city finds that the sport harms the welfare, health, safety or morals of the community.
Madison told the council it could do nothing, ban cage fighting or regulate it.
Because of the possibility of liability, Madison suggested that Hartselle regulate the sport.
He said cage fighting is a form of entertainment and should be taxed like other entertainment in Hartselle, such as bowling.
“If somebody gets hurt, you want to make sure they can get proper medical attention,” Madison said.
Clairday said he already uses Nevada and New Jersey athletic rules that require fighters to get physicals.
Madison said he will try to have a draft of the regulations ready for Monday’s council work session.
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