Organiser defends martial arts event

The organiser of a martial arts tournament called Last Man Standing has vowed to fight a venue cancellation by Belfast City Council.

The council issued a statement on Saturday saying the tournament was due to take place at St George's Market at the end of this month.

But a spokeswoman said councillors had raised concerns about the event "on the basis that it is not a recognised sport".

She added: "Belfast City Council has responded quickly to these concerns and the event organisers have now been contacted and told it will not take place."

DUP councillor David Rodway said: "This is not a recognised sport, it is gratuitous violence.

"Every weekend, we see people fighting on the streets and the council does not wish to promote it."

He also said the organiser's website featured racist music and Pit Bull Terriers. However, the event organiser challenged every allegation.

"Mixed martial arts competitions are fully recognised by many martial arts federations," he said, giving his name only as Donal. There are no blows to the back of the head or spine.

"Eye gouging, biting and headbutting is forbidden and there are limitations on what you can do on the ground. Punches below the waist are also forbidden."

He provided an internet link to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board website, which gives extensive details on mixed martial arts tournament rules.

Mixed martial arts competitions were proven to be much safer than boxing because punches are focused on the head in boxing matches, whereas they are distributed throughout the body in mixed martial arts, he said.

The hip hop music on his website was of a style in which black artists often use derogatory terms for themselves, but no offence was meant or taken by those familiar with the genre, he added.

The only interest his group had in Pit Bull Terriers was in raising funds to help rescue dogs that had been involved in illegal dog fighting, he said.