Monday, February 12, 2007

Regulation of mixed martial arts events needed

Michigan's Department of Labor and Economic Growth took a stand against economic growth on Friday, when it issued a cease and desist order to Bay City-based Adoreable Promotions, Inc. and owner Arthur P. Dore, the promoter of the Original Toughman Contest. According to Archie Millben, enforcement director for the Bureau of Commerical Services, "Our position has been that ultimate fighting is illegal in Michigan. In some of the bouts, people just box each other. What they're putting on constitutes an unlicensed professional boxing show."

That position is one of sheer ignorance.

For one, there is no such thing as "ultimate fighting." The term is a proprietary one, owned by Zuffa, Inc., the Las Vegas-based promoter of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC. The UFC's ubiquitous popularity in the United States has led many, including Millben, to associate any mixed martial arts (MMA) events - the type of events Ahrens promotes - with ultimate fighting, a distinction that is crucial in this context.

Second, MMA is not boxing. Boxing is an altogether different sport, utilizing an entirely different set of rules and requiring an altogether different athlete. Compare any MMA event with any boxing event - you can watch bouts in both sports for free on websites like YouTube - and the difference will be immediately noticeable once the fight hits the canvas.

Third, MMA is the nation's fastest-growing sport, and in refusing to take it seriously, Michigan is refusing a potentially massive economic stimulant. Michigan needs to at least try to sanction the sport, as there is an immense potential for its growth considering its longstanding and unfair illegality under the banner of "ultimate fighting." Legalizing and sanctioning MMA events will take bouts out of backyards and into Michigan's arenas, which are subject to the state's tax laws and safety specifications. Mixed martial arts events are going to be put on regardless, so if the government has its citizens' best interests in mind, it needs to consider repealing the ban.

And finally, a mature athletic commission will likely attract bigger MMA promotions like the UFC into holding events in Michigan, bringing millions of dollars with them. In addition, the sanctioning of MMA events virtually guarantees the safety of the participants, as the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts (which the athletic commissions of over 30 states utilize) specify numerous safeguards to ensure the well-being of the fighters.

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