SD Senator envisions biggest UFC ever, at Sturgis

Friday, March 01, 2013

Bleacher Report’s Damon Martin caught up with State Senator Mark Johnston, who is leading the thus far successful efforts in South Dakota to pass a law mandating the regulation of mixed martial arts.

The losing side is represented by Representative Steve Hickey who called mixed martial arts “the child porn of sports.”

“It’s not over yet,” said the good Sen Johnston. “Because it was amended in the House of Representatives we still have to concur in the Senate over the House changes.  I support those changes, but the real challenge is when that bill comes before Governor Daugaard and what he does with it.  Either sign it, veto it or not sign it which in effect will allow that to go into law. Most importantly, I’m excited for the athletes in South Dakota.

“I believe that this will go a long way to change the perception that MMA has in South Dakota.  All throughout this process it has absolutely angered me the number of people who use the negative connotation of cage fighting with MMA.  We all know that a regulated sport like MMA will do away with 99-percent of the problems that we’ve had in South Dakota.”

“There were two things that drove me everyday with this piece of legislation – athlete safety and opportunity. I think we’ve addressed athlete safety several times throughout these discussions but also from an opportunity perspective we have former heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar who is a native of South Dakota, we’ve got a guy like David Martin, one of the most prominent managers of mixed martial artists in this country, all proponents of MMA.”

This is a battle between dreams. Rep. Hickey, well, I wouldn’t want to speculate about his dreams. But Sen. Johnston dreams of the biggest MMA show ever, at the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. Sturgis, SD is a town of 6,000, that grows once a year by 500,000, when motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide roar in for a week.

It brings an estimated $800,000,000 into the state.

“Importantly from a venue perspective having the Sturgis motorcycle rally the first 10 days of August in the beautiful Black Hills of South Dakota every year,” said Johnston. “That attracts some half a million people over that 10-day period.”

“Picture the possibility of holding at some point in history, holding the largest attended MMA event in the history of the sport in conjuncture with the Sturgis motorcycle rally. Talk about the prominence that will bring to South Dakota.  All because we have a sanctioning, governing body that will be a promoter of that type of event. 

“I’m thrilled by that possibility.”

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