LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – A late legislative call gives the Minneso…

LAWFUEL – The Law Newswire – A late legislative call gives the Minnesota Boxing Commission regulatory control over mixed martial arts — or Ultimate Fighting — events in the state.

The battle over who should regulate mixed martial arts competitions in Minnesota has a winner and new champion, reports Richard Meryhew in the Philadelphia Star-Tribune.

In a decision handed down by the Legislature in the final days of its 2007 session, the Minnesota Boxing Commission will oversee the sport beginning July 1.

“It’s a wonderful sport at this point in time, but it has some issues,” said Scott LeDoux, executive director of the Minnesota Boxing Commission and a former boxer. “And those issues are what we want to clean up.”

One of the nation’s fastest-growing sports, mixed martial arts — commonly called Ultimate Fighting — combines the skills of boxing, wrestling and jujitsu in timed matches inside a caged ring.

Yet in many states and in more than a half-dozen Minnesota cities, the competitions have been banned for being too rough, rowdy and loosely supervised.

Biting, head butting and poking eyes, kidneys or groins is not allowed in mixed marital arts. Competitors also can’t use elbows to inflict pain or run from opponents or curse them. But most everything else goes.

Until recently, 22 states regulated the sport with help from athletic commissions. Minnesota was not one of them.

“I’m happy we got it through because I think it needs some control,” Sen. Dick Day, R-Owatonna, and a member of the State Boxing Commission, said of the law. “I don’t know much about mixed martial arts. But I know there are a lot of concerns out there.”

A tough sport

Andy Grahn, program director for the Minnesota Martial Arts Academy in Brooklyn Center, which trains about 250 martial arts students and a few fighters, said Friday that without some sort of state regulation, more and more Minnesota communities would likely have imposed bans.

“You’d have places where it was legal and places where it was not,” Grahn said.

Said Mike Schultz, a City Council member in Red Wing, which banned the sport earlier this year, “You could get it in one town and it’s run well. And you get it in next community, and it would not be run well. And that’s what is scary to me.”

Under the new law, all fighters, promoters, trainers and coaches must follow rules established by the commission, which will add four members to its five-member board. The new appointments will come from the mixed martial arts community, LeDoux said.

LeDoux said the regulations should improve the image of the sport by keeping shoddy promoters from doing business that puts fighters at risk.

He said regulation also will eliminate conflicts of interest among trainers or promoters who also officiate bouts.

“I’ve gotten so many calls from MMA people who have told me horror stories where a promoter was refereeing and also was the manager of one of the fighters involved in the fight,” LeDoux said.

Nick (The Goat) Thompson, 25, of Eagan, and a world champion in mixed martial arts, said he welcomes state regulation.

“There have been promotions where conditions could have led to serious injury,” Thompson said. “And it hurts the sport when someone is injured because of the malfeasance of a promoter.”

But Thompson said the regulatory fees may be too steep for some promoters, thereby driving them out of business and limiting opportunities for young fighters.

Grahn said he shares that concern but said the fees are there for a reason — to improve the sport’s image.

“They’re really trying to take away the unprofessional promoters,” he said.

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