There are 13 states in the USA where amateur MMA is permitted, but not regulated. In most cases a reputable independent sanctioning body is required. In Michigan however, you can step out of the audience and into the cage, without so much as a weigh in or blood test.
Although he's committed to the sport as a promoter and a former fighter, Joseph Battaglia, one of the owners of the Fight Club Proving Ground, said he would rather see the amateur sport banned in Michigan if it's not regulated or sanctioned.
"It's the wild, wild west. You can literally do whatever you want," he said. "Somebody's gonna die in this sport unless it's regulated. I truly believe that... There's a lot of scumbags in this business that you're signing your life away with."
Ask Battaglia and the fighters at his gym, and they can rattle off the tactics that allow unscrupulous promoters to put on a show at minimal cost. To name just a few: no weigh-ins to allow fighters to be matched properly; no insurance to cover injuries; inadequate medical staff on hand; no blood tests to make sure fighters are free of certain blood-borne illnesses, and pulling spectators from their seats to fight.
Joseph Donofrio, a major promoter of professional MMA events at venues such as the Palace of Auburn Hills, noted that the lack of Regulations gives an advantage to those who promote only amateur events. It might cost $50,000 to put on a professional show, but someone who cuts corners could put on an amateur show for a few thousand dollars.
Donofrio provided a list of additions he said should be made to stalled legislation that he feels are necessary, including addressing some of the insurance and medical staffing deficiencies at many shows and preventing professional fighters from fighting in amateur shows.
The lack of regulations for amateurs as well as other complaints from the Association of Boxing Commissions prompted the group to recommend banning fighters from Michigan, something Ohio did in March.
Bernie Profato, the executive director of the Ohio Athletic Commission, said the lack of regulations, including the failure to have Michigan fighters register in a national database, potentially puts Ohio fighters at risk. He asked why Michigan would choose to continue regulating professionals but not amateurs, who are arguably the most vulnerable fighters.
"Even in the animal kingdom, do you look out for the cub or the bear?" he said, mentioning that the state could raise revenue to fund regulation by charging for amateur licenses. "If you don't regulate it, then ban it."
A bill that would have allowed for the regulation of amateur mixed martial arts was left to languish in committee in the most recent legislative session.
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