To most in the combat sports world, his name is just another in a long list. But to Canadians, specifically Ontario residents, involved in MMA or boxing, his name can drum up rage at the mere mention. To sum him up, he is the Ontario MMA scene version of the Grinch who stole Christmas, minus the happy ending and the growing heart.
Hayashi has been the face of Ontario MMA and boxing for some time, and despite being the man deemed as responsible for regulating and sanctioning events, has seemingly gone out of his way to slow the progress of anything he does not feel is worthy. To use the word worthy may seem like a stretch to some, but when you examine some of his decisions and comments on the sports, it becomes painfully clear. The latest in the Ontario MMA tragedy was the cancellation of a Global Warriors Fighting card, scheduled for June 24 in Brantford, Ontario. In a statement released by the promotion:
“It is with the deepest of regret that Global Warriors Fighting Championship is forced to announce the cancellation of Global Warriors 3: Night of Champions, which was scheduled to take place June 24th from the Brantford Civic Centre in Brantford, Ontario.
Once again in a similar situation to the earlier event postponement there are issues beyond the control of Global Warriors as a promotion. In advance of the planned June 24th event, Global Warriors Fighting Championship submitted a bout sheet that the promotion believed was sound, upon review several of the proposed fighters were not given sanctioning. Global Warriors made every attempt to adjust the bouts to be able to gain sanctioning and bring the best possible event to the fans but found planning was hampered due to a lack of licensed fighters in the province of Ontario.
Global Warriors Fighting Championship was founded to give local talent a chance to shine in front of their friends and family while providing the platform to have a chance to make it to one of the world renown mixed martial arts promotions.
Global Warriors Fighting Championship will now look to reassess and return as a better promotion as the landscape of the sport changes in the province of Ontario.
All ticket holders will be able to receive a refund on tickets through their point of purchase”
Essentially, this event was cancelled due to the matchups offered to the Ontario Athletic Commission, but by taking a quick glance at the final card, nothing seemed wrong with any of the bouts set to take place. The irony of this was that even though the promotion attempted to revamp the event with new matchups to suit the OAC, there simply was not enough licensed fighters in the province to do such a thing, mainly because of the OAC.
It was on August 14, 2010, that the province of Ontario finally legalized the sport, following the lead of other provinces in Canada. Seen as the hub of Canada by many, allowing professional MMA appeared to be a no brainer for all involved. The economic boost would surely help many communities in need, and would give many homegrown athletes the chance to practice their craft without the lengthy travel usually need to compete at a higher level. But prior to this date, the detractors were visible and vocal, with Hayashi leading the charge. At the time, many pointed to the ban in Ontario as a result of Section 83 of the Criminal Code of Canada, which states:
“83(2) In this section, “prize fight” means an encounter or fight with fists or hands between two persons who have met for that purpose by previous arrangement made by or for them, but a boxing contest between amateur sportsmen, where the contestants wear boxing gloves of not less than one hundred and forty grams each in mass, or any boxing contest held with the permission or under the authority of an athletic board or commission or similar body established by or under the authority of the legislature of a province for the control of sport within the province, shall be deemed not to be a prize fight.”
While the section appears outdated and open for interpretation, the problem was that Hayashi not only interpreted it as MMA would be extremely illegal, he used this as the main focus of his argument in almost every instance. Nevermind the fact that both Quebec and British Columbia had played host to UFC events prior to the Ontario ban being lifted, they both did so with the same law in place that Hayashi seemed unable to pry his train of thought from. When asked about the amendment to the Section, which allowed kickboxing, during a 2008 interview, Hayashi commented:
“It’s still a stretch, absolutely. But that’s the limit the government feels comfortable with. (Kick boxers) can’t kick to the legs, they can’t grab, they can’t throw to the ground, can’t choke out, can’t put someone in a submission hold, can’t elbow, can’t knee … there is a difference.”
At the time, Hayashi did have the law on his side, as seen by a 2000 Ontario court ruling. Judge Nancy Kastner banned the sport of Muay Thai within Ontario, claiming that the sport was inherently dangerous, in part because of the practise of striking with elbows and knees, citing Section 83 as a reason for her decision. Hayashi, of course, backed the court’s decision, going as far to say:
“If the courts agreed with us, how can the province be wrong? If we had lost that court case, then bottom line is, okay, I guess it is a ‘boxing contest.”
Forget the fact that this ruling did take place in 2000, over a decade before MMA became legal in Ontario, but to hear the man responsible for the growth of combat sport anywhere to refer to himself as “we” in regards to a court ruling against a combat sport, is something that should be confusing for most people. This is like a doctor against modern medicine being appointed Minister of Health, or a teacher against reading made Minister of Education. Why would a man with a history in a martial arts discipline seem so opposed to opening the provincial doors to the next generation of the sport? But, seeing how MMA has overcome legal obstacles and political strong arming and secured its place within the sports world of Ontario, why are things still so incredibly difficult for promoters and fighters alike?
Hayashi’s major qualm with the sport of MMA appears to be the risk of injury or death. Citing professional MMA fighter Sam Vasquez’s death in 2007, Hayashi feels that had this death occurred in Canada, the federal government would be in position to consider legal action against the sanctioning province, stating:
“It’s breaking the law. The federal law supersedes provincial law.”
To use the world “consider” at anytime shows a less than confident stance on something, more-so charges laid stemming from a death during a sporting event that is sanctioned and governed by a federally approved faction. Since it was the provincial government that allowed MMA in Ontario, and the federal government has yet to step in and overrule anything pertaining to the sport, to assume the worst case scenario as justification for anything is cowardly and weak minded. MMA is a violent sport, this is not news. Injuries, and sadly death, can happen during the course of any bout, but in a sport such as boxing, which Hayashi seems to be behind fully, due to the wording of Section 83, injuries and death are just as likely to happen, and both have happened.
Even with the strongest of objections towards MMA, as the head of the OAC, Hayashi has a responsibility to perform his job in a professional manner, and not run the ship based on his personal bias and preconceived notions about what is right and wrong. His job is not to decide what a promotion chooses to do, only to regulate and make sure all is run properly. If Global Warriors or any other chooses to pit two highly violent strikers in a bout that will end in a spectacular knockout, it is not Hayashi’s place to deem the bout wrong based on that fact that injury may occur.
There is however a curious twist to the reign on Ken Hayashi. In a 2015 report from In The Cage, Hayashi had taken the steps to release his control over the OAC, handing the control over to former Toronto police detective and current Ministry of Consumer affairs investigator John Biggerstaff. While the OAC denied the report, it is believed that Biggerstaff has been shadowing Hayashi at events, with the expected departure of Hayashi coming in December of 2015. Apparently, something hasn’t fully played out, as Hayashi still appears to be the head man at the OAC, but with Biggerstaff having zero combat sports in his background, placing him in such a role seems almost as unprofessional as letting Hayashi continue.
Whatever the current state is, one thing is clear. The MMA community of Ontario has obviously had enough of the outdated mindset of Hayashi, becoming frustrated with the endless hoop jumping and red tape cutting needed to simply do what the rest of North America has been able to do for years now. If changes cannot be made within the OAC, then it seems like Hayashi’s time needs to come to a very abrupt end. There is no benefit to anyone to drag down the dreams of many to mold what you feel as right into reality.
Part 2 of this story with be published in the coming days.