Saturday, February 17, 2007

Va. may soon regulate professional fightingRuckus in the Cage

When Chris Smith announced he would hold a second Ruckus in the Cage in Roanoke, the fight promoter said he had to turn away more than 200 fighters for tonight's event, many from out of state.

That's because mixed martial arts bouts such as Ruckus in the Cage, where fighters beat, choke and wrestle each other into submission, are not allowed in nearby states, including Maryland, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Washington, D.C., Smith said.

In Virginia, legislators are taking baby steps toward regulating the competitions, which have increased in popularity with the rise of professional leagues such as the Ultimate Fighting Championships. In December, one such event drew more than 12,000 fans and $5 million in gross sales in Las Vegas.

House Bill 1798, which passed the House of Delegates on Feb. 6 and comes up for a final vote in the Senate on Monday, would create an advisory board to recommend safety standards to the state Department of Professional Occupation Regulation, which regulates professional boxing, wrestling and martial arts events.

The legislation builds on a 2005 law that put mixed martial arts competition under state regulation.

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