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'Bloodlust' or Family-Friendly Spectator Sport? Martial Arts Ordinance Moves Forward

One Farmington Hills family urges officials to reconsider tough rules for event promoters and oppose the ordinance's 'adults only' requirement.

Whether mixed martial arts is family-friendly or a "bloodlust" event, a new Farmington Hills ordinance governing it and similar sports took one step closer to approval Monday night.

City council members approved on first reading an ordinance that governs "boxing, wrestling, karate and/or other similar martial arts". It will come back for final approval at the council's Feb. 25 meeting. 

The ordinance, which has been under discussion since late last year, sets up rules for amateur events. The State of Michigan has established rules for professional martial arts bouts. 

Mayor Barry Brickner raised concerns over whether the ordinance would affect local martial arts schools. City attorney Steve Joppich recommended adding language to a section that carves out exceptions for the city and educational institutions, so those businesses are exempted as well. 

Requirements for others include a detailed application, providing adequate emergency medical personnel and private security, along with a hefty deposit and clean up bond. One Farmington Hills resident said regulating mixed martial arts, which may include "cage fighting", simply invites promoters to apply. 

"A cage fighting ban would protect the health and safety of the citizens of Farmington Hills," Mary Johnston said. She pointed out the ordinance does not specifically mention cage fighting, which she described as a "bloodlust" sport that "should be as illegal as dog fighting ... We cannot and should not allow these public spectacles to be introduced into Farmington Hills." 

But one Farmington Hills family urged council members to take a closer look at mixed martial arts before enacting such tough regulations. 

North Farmington High junior Marc Goldberg called the required deposit "unreasonable", adding "I think the city council knows it. The purpose is to scare promoters away from the city." 

He and his parents Kelly and Marshall Goldberg, who are students at Farmington Martial Arts, said they watch mixed martial arts as a family. Marc urged officials not to stereotype fans of the sport; he pointed out that he and friends who enjoy it are musicians, honor students and volunteer in the community. 

Kelly and Marshall Goldberg both took issue with the ordinance limiting attendance at events to those over age 18, which they said usurped their rights as parents to decide what is best for their children. 

"If my kids are interested in a particular sport, then I should be able to take them," Marshall Goldberg said. 

Council member Richard Lerner said that part of the ordinance is designed to cover promoters who serve alcohol at their events. "That's looking out for public safety, which is what we have to do," he said. 

The rules are not only about what goes on between the combatants, council member Ken Massey added, "it's what can happen in crowds when you serve alcohol with that." 

Correction: The Goldberg family members quoted are students at Farmington Martial Arts, which is owned by Jeff and Connie Duncan. 

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