UPDATED: Legislator fights to regulate mixed martial arts
Accounting sophomore Kodi Willison practices taking down accounting junior Adam Darga during mixed martial arts training Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 in the basement of IM-Sports West.
Updated at 7:30 p.m. April 10, 2013: House Bill No. 4167 regulating mixed martial arts passed the House on Wednesday, April 10 at a 106-3 vote. The Senate must approve the bill
and Gov. Rick Snyder must sign it for it to become law.
A few months ago, state Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, watched a man beaten senseless at an amateur mixed martial arts fight in southeast Michigan.
He said one fighter was knocked unconscious, and it took two minutes to resuscitate him. Another fighter sustained a finger to the eye and on-site medics didn’t have the right equipment to treat the fighter’s wound, so they used brown concession stand napkins to clean up the blood.
Santana said he felt enough was enough.
Mechanical engineering sophomore Casey Nottingham, right, practices mixed martial arts as he watches gradate student Austin Gregory, front, leap forward Sunday, Feb. 17, 2013 in the basement of IM-Sports West.
“(Vendors) are running a business where (they) are charging people money to sit outside of a cage to watch two human beings beat each other,” he said. “This isn’t going to a movie, this isn’t watching a play. It’s watching unarmed combat amongst two modern-day gladiators.”
The representative introduced a bill Jan. 31 to create a governor-appointed commission to specifically regulate amateur mixed martial arts, or MMA, fighting in Michigan. Santana said four states have outlawed MMA fighting, and Michigan is one of 13 states that does not regulate the sport.
The bill states individuals who host amateur MMA events must get a promoter’s license, keep records of the fight and pay a $200 “regulatory and enforcement” fee.
The bill also regulates how many rounds the fight can have, how much rest time fighters have between each fight and requires various types of medical checkups prior to the fight.
MSU’s MMA Club President Trevor Nelson, who has been practicing MMA for about four years, said although there shouldn’t be any changes to the rules of the fights, more safety regulations could dispel stereotypes surrounding MMA depicting the sport as excessively dangerous.
“It’s not like that,” he said. “It’s a sport like any other sport. It’s a game of tactics; it’s not just going in an beating the guy’s face in.”
Nelson said the MMA club is required to report injuries to MSU, and if there are any serious injuries the club could be shut down. He said rules at MSU encourage club leaders to ensure the about 30 members know the rules of the sport.
MMA became legal in Michigan during former-Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s administration.
The state legislature passed Public Act 403 in 2004, which established the Michigan Unarmed Combat Commission “to regulate professional boxing and mixed martial arts.”
Gov. Rick Snyder said members of the board are “committed to ensuring the integrity of MMA.
However, according to the language of Public Act 403, Section 12 specifically states the act does not apply to “amateur martial arts sports or activities.”
Santana said as amateur MMA grew in popularity and there were few fight regulations, more people wanted to become vendors.
He said there are few rules to ensure amateur fighters are treated fairly and safely. Vendors don’t have to pay fighters or provide insurance, so if fighters are harmed, they bear the brunt of the medical bill, he said.
Santana’s bill would establish more regulations and require fighters be insured for at least $10,000.
Nelson said insurance policies would alleviate his parent’s fears that one of his fights will lead to hefty hospital bills.
A similar bill was introduced during the Michigan Legislature’s last session but stalled because of “politics,” Santana said.
Some were afraid the bill created too many regulations and the MMA business would lose money, but Sanatana said he has high hopes the bill will pass this time around.