News / Edmonton

UFC fighter says combative sports ban forcing him to leave Edmonton

The city enacted a moratorium on combative sports after fighter Tim Hague died at a boxing match in June

Edmonton Unified MMA Lightweight Champion Shane Campbell is leaving Edmonton due to the moratorium.

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Edmonton Unified MMA Lightweight Champion Shane Campbell is leaving Edmonton due to the moratorium.

UFC fighter Shane Campbell won’t be spending a merry Christmas in Edmonton.

The Edmonton-based athlete, currently ranked 86th best Mixed Martial Arts lightweight fighter in the world, said the city's decision to put a hold on combative sporting events has forced him to move because of what he says is a lack of opportunities and a loss of sponsorships.

It’s also affected his teaching position as head coach at Edmonton’s UFC Gym, he said.

On Dec. 8, Edmonton City Council announced that it would ban fighting in the city for one year after fighter Tim Hague died at a boxing match in June, prompting a review of regulations. But the moratorium also means the commission can't license Edmonton-based fighters like Campbell to fight elsewhere.

Campbell, originally from Ontario, said the final nail in the coffin was the cancellation of Unified MMA’s Dec. 15 event, where he was slated to defend his lightweight championship title against Stephen Beaumont. He says three major promoters were waiting to see if he’d win that fight to sign him up for future fights.

“It’s absolutely crushed this Christmas,” Campbell said. “As of today I could have signed a huge contract with the UFC and been back on path to much, much bigger things. Now I’ve been sidelined.”

He says that event was important because it could have led to his fourth straight win, which would have led to a contract of “astronomical” proportions compared to what he’s making now.

Campbell has been living in Edmonton on and off for about 10 years, and says there’s traditionally been a lot more opportunity here for fighters when compared to Eastern Canada. For the last 18 months, he’s supplemented his income from fighting with a coaching position and with sponsorships.

“I have such a good following here, even with a lack of high-level training partners, it still made sense (to live here),” Campbell said. “I was close to even purchasing a house here in Edmonton.”

But now sponsors have backed out of supporting him and even his students don’t see a future for fighting in Edmonton.

“Now that there’s no fights here for my students to actually compete, they’ve lost a lot of interest. I’ve had some students say what’s the point of training if I can’t even fight?” Campbell said.

He said he’ll be moving to British Columbia to attend training camps with other UFC fighters and see what fighting opportunities arise.

While Campbell says he was “extremely saddened” to hear of the death of his friend Tim Hague, which prompted the city to put the moratorium in place, he believes the city’s response was too hasty.

While he said he understands why the city is reviewing the rules around combative sports, he says the city went too far by forcing the cancellation of events that were already scheduled.

“All the fighters had been preparing for this months in advance … so I’m not able to work or do anything else to generate money pretty much two weeks before Christmas.”

Earlier this month, the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission said they respect council’s decision to enact the moratorium, and would work with the city to advise council going forward.

“We will continue our work as a commission, using this time to move forward with the comprehensive policy review that had already been underway,” the commission said in a statement.

An organization called the Alliance for Combat in Edmonton has formed since the ban and have started to fundraise $5,000 to lobby council to reverse the decision.

“ACE believes the moratorium enacted by council is harming the very people it intended to protect,” spokesperson Ryan Wass said.

“At ACE we believe the moratorium is inconsistent with how the city of Edmonton has treated other industries that have workplace fatalities,” he added.

As for Campbell, he expects to be back in Alberta for a fight in the near future, but not in Edmonton. While he acknowledged he’s lived in other places over the last several years for training opportunities, he’s always considered Edmonton his home base.

“Even when I was going to stay here and continue teaching I would still have to travel to get my higher level training, but I would come back here,” he said. “At this point there’s no point in coming back.”

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