MMA bill passes Michigan house, following death in cage

Thursday, April 11, 2013

In no other State have there been a greater number of reports of problems with amateur fights than in Michigan. In fact, the state of Michigan has so egregiously failed to adequately regulate amateur Mixed Martial Arts that the Association of Boxing Commissions last year took the unprecedented step of asking the member commissions to bar amateur Michigan fighters, or those who have recently competed in Michigan.

Safety is left entirely in the hands of for-profit promoters, so pre-fight screenings are minimal or non-existent, there are no tests for AIDS or Hepatitis, fighters under 18 can compete, there are multiple fights in one night. no ringside physician is required, or even an ambulance, and more.

On Friday, Felix Elochukwu Nchikwo, a 35-year-old Nigerian living in Hamilton, Ontario on a student visa died following his participation in an unregulated amateur MMA bout in Michigan, and, finally, the state government appears to be taking the matter seriously.

Chad Livengood of the Detroit News has the story.

The Michigan House on Wednesday approved legislation regulating the fast-growing sport of amateur cage fighting following the Saturday death of a fighter in a mixed martial arts event in Port Huron.

Under a two-bill package, promoters would have to be licensed, provide a ringside doctor and ambulance on site for the amateur events, and require fighters to undergo a physical examination and blood testing for communicable diseases before getting in the ring.

Fight promoters with felony convictions of fraud, theft and violence or unpaid tax liens exceeding $5,000 would be barred from getting state licenses under one bill.

The bill also requires amateur fighters to be 18 years of age and amateur female fighters would have to have a negative pregnancy test within seven days of a bout to participate.

The legislation limits the length of fights to three rounds with each session no more than three minutes long.

The other bill would make it a misdemeanor for violating the proposed Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Regulatory Act and create a felony for anyone who knowingly allows a professional mixed martial arts fighter to battle in an amateur event.

Violation of the felony would be punishable by up to three years in prison or a $10,000 fine.

State Rep. Harvey Santana, a Detroit Democrat, inherited the legislation from former state Rep. Dave Agema, a Grandville Republican who was term-limited last year.

“The unfortunate events that happened over the weekend kind of catapulted it faster,” Santana said.

The state regulates professional boxing and mixed martial arts, but not amateur events young fighters participate in to get into a professional cage fighting league, Santana said.

“It’s about time we put some rules for mixed martial arts,” he said.

The House passed the bills 106-3. The legislation heads to the state Senate.

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