GA MMA political gridlock continues

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

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.

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*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.