September 30, 2011
At tonight’s charity event at the Du Burns Arena pitting city firefighters against police officers in mixed martial arts cage matches, the bout between Officer Regis Flynn and firefighter Joseph Yingling was considered to be a main draw. Flynn is 65 years old – he proclaimed himself the only Vietnam Veteran in the event and was dedicating the match to fellow vets – and was giving up 20 years to his opponent.
But Flynn won’t be in attendance after being was told yesterday that he’s been pulled from the match. Flynn, who’s been training for three months, is alleging age discrimination.
“I feel like someone hit me with a sledgehammer,” said Flynn, who said his involvement in the event has been featured in veterans publications and was attracting spectators from out of state. “I think its just blatantly discriminatory, and it’s disgusting what they’re doing.”
Robert Ross, a city homicide detective who is organizing the event, said he sympathized with Flynn and tried to overturn the sanctioning body’s decision. “It’s unfortunate what happened, but we can’t shut down the entire event over this one thing,” Ross said. “We stand behind him, and we’re with him on this. We think its absolutely wrong.”
According to Ross and Flynn, Flynn passed physicals and stress tests and was cleared to participate. But this month, the sanctioning body, Florida-based American Amateur Mixed Martial Arts, tweaked the rules so that anyone over age 50 could not fight someone with a five year age difference without approval. Flynn said he got tentative approval contingent that he wear a type of headgear designated by the AAMMA, but the Maryland Athletic Commission said it would not allow the fighters to participate wearing headgear. The AAMMA then ruled that Flynn was off the fight card. Flynn said he wasn’t notified until yesterday.
Ryan Mackin, a Baltimore-based MMA fighter who trained Flynn, said he was so upset about the decision that he nearly pulled the other nine fighters that he trained out of the event.
“For three months, he’s been working his ass off, and working harder than anybody else,” Mackin. “His work ethic, the kind of shape that he’s in, there’s no doubt in my mind that he can take on the physical burden that might come with competing. They’re just worried about how they look, and everybody is pointing the finger.”