On May 18, 2012 Dustin Jenson, 26, fought in an unregulated MMA event in Rapid City, South Dakota called RingWars. This was reportedly his fifth fight, although there is no official record of any of his fights, as MMA is not regulated in South Dakota, despite a law that says it should be.
Jenson tapped to a triangle choke, and did not appear to take any significant damage in the bout. He told EMTs he was fine, watched two more fights, and went back stage to stretch out. Another fighter heard a moan, and discovered Jenson having seizure, some 45 minutes after the fight.
Doctors at the nearby Rapid City Regional Hospital determined Jenson had increased pressure on his brain, and put him in a medically induced coma. Surgery was performed to relieve pressure, but Jenson did not wake up and was declared brain dead on May 24. He remained on life support until his organs were donated.
Cause of the death remained ambiguous, but South Dakota is now again taking necessary steps towards Regulation.
A state commission to oversee boxing and mixed martial arts might be getting up from the mat in South Dakota. A bill in the legislature would revive the commission in an effort to keep fighters safe in the octagon.
A Sioux Falls lawmaker says tragedies might be avoided if there's more oversight of the sport.
"There are unregulated cage fights going on throughout South Dakota regularly," says State Senator Mark Johnston. "Unfortunately, there have been some athletes that have been seriously injured."
Johnston wants medical experts appointed to his proposed commission to help ensure the safety of the fighters. Johnston says a commission, sanctioning the sport, will also open up more economic opportunities for future mixed martial arts events in the state.
"It's a huge pay-per-view venue, like it or not, it's a multi-billion dollar industry in the United States," Johnston said.
The legislature passed a bill in 2009 but the law expired last summer, with no commissioners ever being appointed. LeMair hopes a new commission will emerge this year, although he's no fan of MMA.
Governor Dennis Daugaard's office tells us the governor did not appoint any members to the commission because the 2009 bill had flaws in it, including funding. But Johnston says under his bill, the commission will not cost taxpayers anything because it would be funded through profits of fight events.
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However, Governor Daugaard is now saying he opposes the bill entirely.
Daugaard said Friday he opposes a bill that would create a state athletic commission because the Legislation also would legitimize mixed martial arts fights, which he says are so violent they don't deserve to be called sport.
"I'm offended that the state would legitimize cage fighting and the bloody violence these kinds of spectacles create," Daugaard said.
The Republican governor spoke just after the Senate State Affairs Committee approved a bill that would create a South Dakota Athletic Commission to oversee boxing, kick boxing, mixed martial arts competitions and sparring exhibitions. The bill next goes to the full Senate.
The bill's main sponsor, Sen. Mark Johnston, R-Sioux Falls, said many mixed martial arts already take place in South Dakota, and the Legislature needs to set up a regulatory system to protect the safety of athletes who take part in boxing and mixed martial arts.
Johnston also noted mixed martial arts events are shown regularly on television. They feature highly trained athletes, including some former standout collegiate wrestlers, he said, adding, "This is a sport."
Daugaard said it's "absurd and ridiculous" to call mixed martial arts a sport.
"The way one wins in those contests is by beating up your opponent, bloodying them, kicking, scratching, punching," Daugaard said. "I don't support in any fashion anything the state would do to legitimize this kind of behavior. I think it's a sad commentary on what our culture allows in some areas."
A bill passed in 2009 created a similar commission, but Johnston said that commission doesn't exist because former Gov. Mike Rounds never appointed anyone to serve on it. The bill approved Friday by the committee would allow the governor to appoint one commissioner, while the other four would be appointed by legislative leaders.
Daugaard said he opposes the bill, but if lawmakers proceed with the measure they should at least change the wording so they would appoint all the commissioners and he appoints none.
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