The Congress and MMA

Kind of big news that may seriously change MMA as we know it. It is almost like The UFC knew big changes were coming. A Congressional subcommittee held a hearing Thursday on a range of issues related to mixed martial arts, including brain trauma, inconsistent anti-doping measures and athlete compensation. The Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade, which is part of the U.S. House Committee on Energy and Commerce, reviewed testimony from several witnesses. Among them were former UFC champion Randy Couture and Jeff Novitzky, the UFC’s vice president of athlete health and performance. States have shown interest in banning or regulating MMA so it would not have been important if a single state was reviewing it.

It was a significant hearing in the sport’s history because, historically, the federal government has taken very little interest in MMA.

A range of issues was discussed and they are issues that have been brought up in the past. The fighters union was created to help with these issues. The current lack of comprehensive health insurance for professional fighters was one of the key ideas discussed. Although the focus of the hearing was not to specifically address a live bill to expand the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000 to MMA, that topic certainly loomed over the entire hearing. That bill was introduced to Congress in May by Rep. Markwayne Mullin from Oklahoma and aims to expand the federal law’s coverage to all combat sports, and specifically calls for the Association of Boxing Commissions to create guidelines for minimum fighter/promoter contractual provisions and establish criteria for an independent fighter rankings system.

Drug testing and fighter safety were the main focus of the discussion for now, but it is apparent that changes are coming. How soon is not known. The subcommittee will not meet again until early 2017, at which point there will be a hearing scheduled to specifically address the bill to expand the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, Rep. Mullin told Should the bill pass through both the subcommittee and the House, it would move on to the Senate. Ultimately, the bill would also require the signature of President-elect Donald Trump, who has a known relationship with UFC president Dana White. Mullin said he does not see that relationship as a threat to the bill, which the UFC doesn’t support.

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