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Hartselle plans to adopt rules governing cage fighting

By Deangelo McDaniel · 340-2469

HARTSELLE — City leaders are wasting no time in adopting rules governing cage fighting.

Less than one week after meeting with Hartselle city attorney Larry Madison, a City Council majority has agreed to adopt a mixed martial arts ordinance that restricts who can participate in cage fighting and what procedures organizers of the events must follow.

“We have to consider the liability to the city,” Mayor Dwight Tankersley said during Monday’s work session. “This ordinance outlines the things we were concerned about.”

The ordinance governs any event other than boxing and wrestling, the mayor said.

The council will adopt the ordinance Tuesday during its 7 p.m. meeting in City Hall.

Cage fighting has been under scrutiny here since Councilman Bill Drake questioned the sport’s legality after seeing advertisements for it throughout the city

The ordinance requires promoters of cage fighting to employ a physician or licensed paramedic to clear fighters before they enter the ring. Promoters of the events must carry between $1 million and $2 million in liability insurance and must have a paramedic or physician in attendance during matches. No one under 18 can participate in cage fighting. If you are 18, you will need your parent’s consent.

Robert Clairday, the promoter of cage fighting in Hartselle, told the council last week that he already requires fighters to have pre- and post-fight checkups.

Clairday was not at Monday’s meeting, but he has said he will close his business of 25 years within 30 days.

Because the state fire marshal restricted how many people he can have in his building near Chestnut and Sycamore streets, Clairday said he can’t host cage fighting there.

He accused the council of tying his hands and forcing him out of business. Hartselle denies the allegations.

Tankersley questioned Madison about the legality of cage fighting, and Madison suggested that the council seek an opinion from the attorney general.

In a four-page opinion, the attorney general’s office said state law does not prohibit cage fighting and that 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,” Brenda Smith, assistant attorney general, wrote.

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 is harmful to the public welfare, health, safety or morals of the community.

The council said it never planned to ban the sport but agreed that regulations should be in place because of liability to the city.

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