GA MMA political gridlock continues

by Jodie Fleischer | source:

A political decision to fill a vacancy on the board that oversees mixed martial arts in Georgia has become its biggest fight yet.

The secretary of Georgia's Athletic and Entertainment Commission decides whether fighters are evenly matched and if opponents will have a fair fight.

Secretary of State Brian Kemp appointed his deputy secretary, Kelly Farr, to handle the job, vacated when the previous secretary, Andy Foster, was recruited away by the state of California.

"Because we're so critical about how we match, we're the only state that's not had a fighter die in the ring in a sanctioned fight," said Georgia Commission Chairman Don Geary, who is critical of Farr.*

"He doesn't have the skills that we require, and we're not going to compromise," added Geary.

Fighters and trainers worry the impasse between the Secretary of State and the commission threatens to kill the mixed martial arts industry in Georgia.

But Kemp said he will not re-visit the appointment issue until after the upcoming legislative session, saying he placed Farr in the role as a cost-saving measure.

"I'm fully confident he has the ability to do the job, he's done it before," said Kemp, who told Channel 2 investigative reporter Jodie Fleischer, he didn't want to appoint someone new, and then have to fire them if the legislature forces more budget cuts.

"We're ready to support the commission. If they choose not to work with us, then that's something I can't control," said Kemp.

Critics say Kemp's decision will not save money, but cost Georgia's economy.

"People will lose their jobs, gyms will close," said manager Megan Swartzlander, who worries about the hundreds of athletes, gym owners, trainers, and promoters.

"They would go to other states, they would have to shut down or they would have to find some other means of employment," she added.

The UFC has said it will only promote events in states with a functioning commission.

If Georgia's commission refuses to approve fights with Farr's decisions, UFC has indicated it would no longer host events in Georgia, events that routinely fill hotel rooms and restaurants. Even the 70 to 100 local events each year could be knocked out.

"When you look at total impact to the community and not just directly to the coffers? It's millions ... millions," said Geary.

Farr appeared frustrated at Tuesday's commission meeting, butting heads with commissioners several times.

"I don't know what ya'll want from me or need from me to convince you I'm qualified to do the job, but I feel I am," Farr told the commissioners.

They voted to approve a temporary fix for one month, allowing the Association of Boxing Commissions to approve the fighter matches.

Read entire article...

*This is obviously not what Farr said, the sports is regulated in nearly every State and Province in North America and has suffered only a handful of deaths.

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Recent Comments »

Silhouette site profile image  

12/13/12 8:11 PM by Silhouette

i know we have good people on the commission but the problem isnt people like George or Ken (people who care about this sport), its the people who dont know crap about the sport and have their own little personal vendetta bs. its the same things that happened when the commission took over years ago before Andy took the lead in GA and turned everything back around.We went from one of the best states for MMA to what we have now. I hate to be negative but i have seen these politicians at work and have been there at meetings and even voiced my own opinion. I know everything will eventually work itself out it always does but in the meantime.....we once had a great system in place with great refs (george and cam) and people watching out for fighters and promoters, i would just like to see that again for the GA fight community

Cal Cooper site profile image  

12/13/12 3:01 PM by Cal Cooper

Oops, yes it was a Dalton drawl. I'd edit my post, but sometimes that messes up the quote boxes. Don't be too negative Silhouette. We're having problems with Farr and the others at the SOS, but I feel lucky that we have so many good people on our Commission. They've really stood up for us. They're trying really hard to do the right thing.Farr supposedly said that 'not a dozen people' will care about this Commission issue. He likes to work behind the scenes.I've heard through the grapevine that the SOS really does get upset when we have Channel 2 TV covering the problem. We need a phone-in campaign to the SOS office to let Brian Kemp know the people are aware and they want them to work with the Commission and give them a qualified Secretary to the Commission.

Silhouette site profile image  

12/13/12 1:42 PM by Silhouette

its such a joke, and Andy had the Dalton drawl not DawsonvilleWe have plenty of qualified individuals, but instead you drop a ignorant bureaucrat (Kelly Farr). Who I have personally heard in a commission meeting say he knew nothing about the sport and had never attended a match this was back in 2007. Since then they have done everything in their power to stifle MMA in GA

SC MMA MD site profile image  

12/13/12 12:50 PM by SC MMA MD

Incidently Cal, if you and Brett would like to bring the Fight Party back to Greenville, we would love to have you.

SC MMA MD site profile image  

12/13/12 12:44 PM by SC MMA MD

Cal, thanks for presenting some facts. I hope this situation gets fixed soon, GA MMA was/is building up nicely.

Cal Cooper site profile image  

12/13/12 12:12 PM by Cal Cooper

So true! But there will always be politics. Be sure you understand the distinctions in who is trying to do what. In Georgia, people like myself have worked for years to make sure our sport was fairly and effectively regulated. Before MMA was mainstream we feared State control, because we thought the 'boxing generation' would try to destroy our sport, so in the early 2000's we kept the State out of regulation for four consecutive years by getting their bills stuck in congressional committee. By the time the State took over regulation, the sport had become established well enough that it was here to stay, and we had to focus on getting good Commissioners. Often State Commissioners are unpaid and they take their appointments from the Governor to rub elbows and exercise their egos. We had some of these people removed. Each step was a war. Gradually a great commission was forming. When Kelley Farr was the Secretary to the Commission (before he worked as SOS Deputy Secretary) he took a liking to a convicted criminal who was promoting fights in Georgia. The law specifically prohibits felons from promoting for 10 years after conviction or plea. Kelley allowed his buddy to promote illegally anyway. Eventually Kelley was promoted out of the job, as often happens in politics, but make no mistake, he was very unpopular in the job. Kelley hand-picked the helpful, slow-speaking southerner Andy Foster to be his own replacement, probably thinking that Andy would act as a puppet in his absence. However Andy, despite his Dawsonville drawl, is highly intelligent and capable. Eventually the previous secretary of State (Karen Handel) would tell Kelley Farr to butt out of the Commission business and let Andy do his job. The Commission thrived under Andy, and Georgia continued to shine as a leader in MMA as it had since the mid-90's. This must have bothered Farr quite a bit. Furthermore, Andy Foster became active in the national Assoc. of Boxing Commissions (ABC) and helped with rules and training guidelines for the organization. He brought the UFC to Atlanta twice and laid plans with Zuffa for two more shows. Last year Andy was voted Best Commissioner in the nation by the ABC. He was a superstar and everybody in the fight game knew who he was. Then Kelley Farr cut Andy's pay. Andy was already the lowest paid "Athletic Commissioner in the entire United States, but Farr cut his salary. Under Farr's influence legislation was introduced to dissolve the Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission. It didn't get passed, but now Farr, and Brian Kemp (Georgia Secretary of State) would have everyone believe that they are friends of the sport and that they can issue licenses and approve matches by the numbers. This is nothing but power hungry politics. Farr is the furthest thing from an MMA supporter. He got his first job at Secretary to the Commission because his Dad was a big contributor to the Republican party (he told me so himself). He has routinely operated with disdain for those who know more than he does, and as far as I can tell he has never done anything to benefit fighter safety or to keep crime out of MMA.We have worked long and hard to assemble the Commission we have, and it may be the best Commission in the entire country. The SOS needs to respect that we have a high-functioning government Commission that is serving the people and the fight community well. How often does that happen in government anyway, right?What needs to happen is George Allen needs to be put into that position so the symbiotic relationship between the Commission and the Secretary to the Commission can continue and move forward as it has for the last several years.

Cal Cooper site profile image  

12/13/12 11:39 AM by Cal Cooper

1. When Andy Foster left the Secretary to the Commission job and headed to California, he helped the Georgia Commission put together a list of qualified replacements. The list included George Allen, Megan Swartzlander and Ken Coffey. All three would do a fine job and have the knowledge required, plus the reputation to command respect. The Commission actually voted to accept George Allen (longtime MMA fighter and well respected referee) in the position. They sent their recommendations to the Secretary of State and they were ignored. The SOS first put a pencil pusher in the job who stated that he knew nothing about MMA and would not attend any matches.Then they put Kelly Farr in the position - the actual guy who is behind trying to dissolve the commission. 2. I talk to Don Geary regularly. He was either misquoted or misspoke. He know the statistics and knows Georgia isn't the only state w/o a death. MMA deaths have occurred in SC (twice) and Florida.3. It's not matchmaking that makes fight safe, it's fight approval. Georgia regularly disallowed matches under Secretary to the Commission Andy Foster. It really does take an expert to do a good job. If Andy thought a fight was bad matchmaking, he might still allow the fight to continue, but if he thought a fight was dangerous he would not allow it. That is a degree of knowledge and involvement that the SOS office will never have.

FatBuddha site profile image  

12/12/12 10:19 PM by FatBuddha

Great points. I agree that attributing lack of deaths solely or even largely due to "expert matchmaking" is odd to say the least. Furthermore, according to a 2007 article by respected combat sports researcher and writer Joseph Svinth (very nice guy btw), at least 9 deaths in the ring have occurred in Georgia. Here is the link to the article (statistic is in Table 3):

SC MMA MD site profile image  

12/12/12 10:13 PM by SC MMA MD

^ You are hired if I had any say; but this looks like a typical appointed political position where it is more "who" than "what" you know that matters- and both sides have agendas/vendettas.I would love to find another source concerning the statement about Georgia being the only state without a sanctioned death in the ring- it is hard to see a statement close to that one that makes sense. Is he counting boxing? Has there never been a boxing death in Georgia? If so, does he really think that is the result of expert matchmaking?

FatBuddha site profile image  

12/12/12 10:02 PM by FatBuddha

I would like a shot at the position. Did my senior thesis back in 1997 on the Neurological Effects of MMA versus Boxing, completed over a year of PhD level credit hours in biomedical science, Emory law graduate, former King & Spalding attorney, Relson Gracie black belt and fan of Georgia MMA since the very first Submission Fighting Open events which I attended back in the 90s.