The Aftermath of Unified MMA 33 Cancellation

After being hyped as one of the biggest fight cards in the promoter’s history, Unified MMA 33 was cancelled just two days before it’s scheduled date of Dec.15.

The cancellation came as a result of a recent moratorium against combative sports that was implemented by Edmonton city council, stemming from the passing of former boxer Tim Hague in June.

“The most important reason we do these shows is to showcase these athletes,” said Unified MMA president Sunny Sareen in an interview. “For this to happen after these athletes go through their training camps, that is the most frustrating part.”

Sareen said between $25,000 and $30,000 was being used for fighter purses. So, not only did the fighters spend money or take time off work for their training camps, they didn’t receive their pay cheques, which many were likely counting on to fill the void from training camp.

It’s not only the fighters that suffered from the ban, but also everyone involved with the event, from the venue, the doctors, the sponsors, and everyone else involved in any form.

“People don’t understand, there’s over 100 employees that go into these events, and they were all expecting these pay cheques,” said Sareen. “These events bring a substantial amount into our local economy, so it’s very frustrating from a local business standpoint, and for my colleagues who make these events go as well.”

Why Unified MMA 33 Couldn’t Go

Sareen said he found out about the ban just one week before the event, which he feels was not a fair amount of time to try and work something out.

“We weren’t even given a fair chance,” said Sareen. “It was very frustrating.”

In order to be sanctioned, each MMA event Sareen puts on requires a licence from the Edmonton Combative Sports Commission (ECSC), and to obtain the licence, Sareen must submit all the necessary paperwork. He said he only had a couple more minimal items to submit when he was informed by the ECSC they weren’t able to issue anymore licences due to city council’s ruling.

Sareen said if he had known about the potential of this ban being put in place, he would’ve submitted the remaining paperwork, and received his licence prior to the implementation of the moratorium. In the past, he said he’s always received his licence a day or two before the event, which is why a little more notice would’ve been beneficial.


Noah Ali was one of the fighters on the Unified MMA 33 card impacted by the sudden ban, as he was set to face Michael Hay. He said he lost a lot of money during his fight camp just through showing up late to work and taking days off, just to get a good fight camp in.

Noah Ali
Noah Ali was set to face Michael Hay at Unified MMA 33. (Hard Knocks Fighting)

“I was relying on that fight to break even and get a little more money for Christmas,” said Ali in an interview. “Then, fight doesn’t happen, so I’m trying to make the money back, which I can’t really do.”

He said although he won’t be able to make up the money he lost during fight camp, there are bigger problems than what he’s dealing with, such as what the Hague family is going through.

The Future for Unified MMA

With the moratorium halting all combative sporting events in Edmonton for the next year, at least temporarily, Sareen said he’s hoping to work together with the city in hopes of having the ban lifted.

He made it clear that the ECSC is one of the best commissions in the business, and it’s not them that’s going to be the problem.

“The commission that we have in place is one of the best commissions in the world,” said Sareen. “The governance they have is fantastic.”

When it comes to the immediate future of Unified MMA, Sareen said his number one priority is to work with city council and keep the promotion going in Edmonton. He said if all goes well, he’s hoping to be able to put on a Unified MMA event as soon as March 2018.

He said there is an opportunity upcoming for him to speak with city council to voice his concerns, and hopefully have everything back to the way it was.

“Let’s just hope that rules and regulations can be passed, and we can continue where we began eight and a half years ago. We don’t want to move, we want to be here.”


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