State boxing commissioner seeks oversight of mixed martial arts
DES MOINES - Iowa's boxing commissioner Thursday asked the Legislature to authorize him to regulate amateur ultimate fighting matches that one lawmaker said are akin to the "wild West."
David Neil, who doubles as Iowa's commissioner for both boxing and labor issues, said recent situations in Shenandoah and Waterloo where mixed martial arts combatants were injured have convinced him that state oversight is needed for amateur bouts.
Iowa currently licenses and regulates professional boxing and professional MMA events held in the state, but allows a well-established association to oversee amateur boxing, Neil said. However, currently there is no such organized Iowa group to provide the same structure for mixed martial arts matches.
"There is no regulation of amateur at all," he said, which means some fighters are under aged or have not been tested for hepatitis or HIV/AIDS and compete in bouts where the officiating and medical personnel may not be up to standards the state would prefer to see.
"Right now the way this is the amateur stuff is more wild West out there than anything. There's no regulation at all," said Sen. Bill Dotzler, D-Waterloo, chairman of a Senate subcommittee working on Senate Study Bill 3192.
Currently, Neil said his office requires a $5,000 surety bond for professional MMA events that seek a state license, along with medical records and the names of fighters under contract, the supervising doctor and the sanctioned referee. Neil or one of his deputies would attend the event and promoters pay the state 5 percent of the gate to cover costs.
The commissioner proposes a similar structure for amateur MMA matches and events.
Iowa law currently sets an age requirement of 18 for boxers, but the proposed Legislation would require that MMA contestants be at least 21 years of age and provide proof.
"You're not as willing to waste your brain cells at 21 as you are at 18," said Sen. Dick Dearden, D-Des Moines, who called the commissioner's proposed changes "just common sense."
Under the proposed bill, promoters of a mixed martial arts event would be accountable for the conduct of all officials and participants at MMA matches. The commissioner could suspend a match or event if a contestant does not pass a required prefight physical exam or fails to present adequate proof of age, and if a promoter, contestant or participant was in violation of any rule.
Promoters would be required to pay state tax on the event's gross receipts and the commissioner would have the authority in certain circumstances to revoke, deny or withdraw a license for or deny participation in an MMA match or event. The commissioner also could impose civil penalties not to exceed $10,000 per violation against someone who posed as a promoter without a license.
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