Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Association of Boxing Commissions annual conference wrapped up on Wednesday, with the day primarily given over to mixed martial arts, rather than its original base of boxing.

New ABC president Mike Mazzulli opened with a brief and friendly address, stressing that the ABC is a “we organization” and calling for the widest range of feedback.

New Jersey AC attorney Nick Lembo gave the MMA Training Committee Report, announcing that Mark Smith's judge training course had been approved. Lembo also gave the MMA Rules Committee Report, with the biggest news being that the 115 lbs. Strawweight division was now officially part of the Unified Rules. Regulators rarely receive notice, but Nick Lembo's contributions to the sport cannot be underestimated.

There was a series of  highly informative if sometimes quite technical medical reports were given, organized by ABC Medical Committee Report, Chairperson, – Dr. Sheryl Wulkan. Dr. Wulkan is also a highly trained martial artist, who has spent years working directly with fighters, and a pillar of fighter health and safety.

The entire history of Performance Enhancing Drugs was laid out, from its use by Nazi doctors to increase soldier aggressiveness, to the first Olympic death, in 1960 (it was a cyclist), to the first drug tests in 1968, right up to the present day.

All the major PEDs and recreational drugs were detailed, along with side effects. There were repeated references to the idea that while of course a fighter cannot compete while high, mere use of the recreational drug should not reasonably be a concern of commissions.

Dr. Margaret Goodman talked about her long background in combat sports, and her role in the founding of VADA. Dr. Daniel Eichner and Dr. Amy Eichner discussed the protocols in use by USADA / WADA.

New UFC vice president for Athlete Health and Performance Jeff Novitzky and did an excellent job of communicating his unparalleled expertise in fighting PEDs. Use of performance enhancing drugs is a problem in a wide range of professional and amateur events, but the physical damage is done to the user. It is fundamentally different in combat sports – there is the physical damage to your own body, but MMA is a hurting game. The use of drugs allows you to hurt another person to a higher degree than is natural, and that is why our sport needs the highest degree of testing at its highest levels.

With Novitzky, we have it. There is a prohibition on PEDs and Jeff Novitzky is Eliot Ness.

With the fight against PEDs in force, other crucially important issues are now being addressed as well. There were also extended presentations of dehydration and concussion. Expect to see those two critical issues come to the fore over the coming months and years.

Densign White, CEO of IMMAF and Frank Babcock director of UMMAF gave very well received presentations on their organizations. Both have extraordinary roles in combat sports. New Zealand's Nyra Phillips was also on hand using her remarkable organizing skills to keep things rolling smoothly.

Tomas Yu, from the WMMAA, gave a frankly less well received presentation on his international professional and amateur MMA sanctioning efforts, which are centered on Mexico, Central America, and South America. It did not help that Yu's assistant could not be found, so nothing was available for the overhead projector.

Youth Pankration has been a controversial topic, but Jon Frank of the United State Fight League did an excellent job of explaining that under his organization's rules, it is something like a combination of point karate fighting and grappling, rather than MMA.

Casey Oxendine discussed his two on two Arena Combat events, and did an excellent job in communicating what goes on in the contests, without getting torn to shreds.

USADA Legal Affairs Director Onye Ikwuakor and Sports Testing Director Andrew Morrison provided a wealth of information on the group's history, and future in MMA. Some steps, like the coming ban on IVs, seem draconian, but make sense within the context of the history of PED detection avoidance. A member of a cyclists team spotted a PED tester as he entered the lobby of a hotel. By the time the tester had taken the elevator and reached the athlete's room, the team doctor had force aqueezed multiple IV bags into the athlete, diluting his blood to the point his results were odd, but did not cross any thresholds. With the strongest PED testing in sports, that type of loathsome scenario is not going to corrupt our sport, but there is a price to pay, and IVs is just one of them.

Further, if an athlete is truly medically dehydrated and feels the need to go to the hospital for it, as long as it was documented and deemed needed by an MD, rehydration via IV would still be permitted. But the practice of a buddy who is an EMT with a big bag full of little bags, going from fighter, that will be a thing of the past.

No mention of the convention would be complete without noting the tremendous work being done in Brazil under the direction of chairman Rafael Favetti, with the assistance of Cristiano Sampaio.

The General Session followed. This involved discussion among the membership, and an opportunity for interested parties in the sport to speak to the membership.

Wanderlei Silva, Jon Fitch, Brandon Vera, RyanJImmo, Juanito Ibarra, Jacob 'Stitch' Duran, and Rob Maysey were on hand. Maysey spoke at some length, calling for the UFC to be subject to the same requirements that The Muhammad Ali Act demands from boxing promoters. Then Juanito Ibarra, noting that he is a former longshoreman, offered some remarks, saying at one point that Maysey's MMAFA has the backing of the Teamsters.

The ABC then looked to the future, by exactly one year. Next convention will be in Vegas.

In closing, new ABC officers were sworn in by the tireless outgoing president Tim Lueckenhoff.
President: Mike Mazzulli (Mohegan Tribe)
1st Vice President: Brian Dunn (Nebraska)
2nd Vice President: Mike Kostrzewa (Connecticut)
Treasurer: Lydia Robertson (Arkansas)
Secretary: Joe Walsh (Iowa)

Mazzulli closed with a vow to hit the ground running, and is, as will be detailed in future.

The traditional banquet and auction ended the evening. I scored a cool autographed Pat Miletich IFL jersey. Next year in Vegas …