Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is a fairly new sport that has been on the rise all across America and throughout the world. The sport combines many different styles and techniques and allows athletes to display those forms any way they can during a professional fight. Many gyms have popped up all around the United States and in my current state of Michigan. However, most states do not allow MMA athletes to compete as professionals in sanctioned, ticketed events, and Michigan is one of those states.
Under the Boxing Regulatory Act in the Michigan Penal Code, MMA and UFC professional fights are considered “prized fights” and are strictly prohibited. This means that no gym or any other place can host an event that sells tickets in the state of Michigan. Without being able to sell tickets and earn money at events, why would athletes and sponsors ever consider staying in Michigan to train and fight? Many athletes have asked that exact question and have chosen to leave the state to pursue their MMA dreams.
The rise of MMA all across the world and specifically in the state of Michigan, has forced the Michigan government and other states to react. The Michigan Department of Labor and Economic Growth and the House Regulatory committee have decided to do something about the Boxing Regulatory Act and help promote MMA within the state. The initiation of professional MMA in Michigan will also give a big boost to the economy. After much debate, House Bills 4869 and 4870 were finally introduced on May 30th, 2007 and are now about to be voted on shortly.
House Bill 4869 changes the name of the Boxing Regulatory Act and renames it the Unarmed Combat Act (UCA). Congress took the BRA and merely changed its name and added mixed martial arts to the type of combat allowed. That, along with adjusting several other small areas, are the only real changes made to the Boxing Regulatory Act that existed since 2004. The UCA will cover the rules that will govern the MMA and all related unarmed combat fights. It will also discuss how funding will be provided. “Funding for the MMA programs would be provided through license fees and a capped 3% tax on all televised contracts, regardless of venue size, unlike boxing, which is limited to a venue size of 5,000 or more.”
The modifications continue with the emergence of a capped 3% tax on all television contracts, regardless of size. If the bill passes the way it is currently written, the MMA would be conducted under the New Jersey rules. These rules have already been adopted in a number of states that allow MMA fights.
The next corresponding bill, House Bill 4870, simply excuses the MMA from the provisions of the Penal Code, which prohibit ticket sales and “prized” events in the state of Michigan. The bill also suggests that Michigan regulate and acknowledge MMA under the Unarmed Combat Act.
If the bills make it through, Michigan will be one of the few states that currently allows professional MMA fights. The two bills together will regulate and control MMA throughout the entire state. The sport would bring a lot of added revenue to Michigan and could seriously help out the struggling economy. State revenues are expected to increase by an undetermined amount. The passing of these bills will allow out of state fans the opportunity to come to Michigan and watch their favorite fighters. The House also suggests that other taxes and income will stay in the state, as Michigan fighters will now be able to train and fight domestically.
The State of Ohio recently enacted similar regulations. According to Ohio statistics, two sizable UFC fights in the state brought $6,000,000 in revenue plus an additional $24,000,000 more to the cities’ local economies where the events were held. A recent event in Akron saw more people attend from out of state than inside the state.
While the exact numbers are still uncertain, there is no doubt that regulating MMA would increase the revenue in Michigan and give individuals inside the state something new to watch and train for. Local communities and gyms like Big House Boxing and MMA would see a huge rise in attendance and would benefit immensely by House Bill 4869 and 4870. Enacting these bills would not only make local gyms and training facilities happy, it would also be an advantage to all Michigan residents.
Although some people still oppose the fighting style and physicality of MMA, the benefits clearly outweigh the consequences. With strict and organized regulation of MMA events, Michigan can entice athletes and fighters from all over the country to come and train here. Innovation is key and the state has a great opportunity to capitalize on here. Mixed martial arts can be regulated and controlled for Michigan’s benefit. Just like the state government recently did when they adjusted the tax rates to attract movie and entertainment companies. Allowing professional MMA fights can have just as big an impact on the economy, and right now that is exactly what Michigan needs.