Jerry Kopel

KOPEL: ARE MIXED MARTIAL ARTS REALLY REGULATED?

Time for Colorado to wrestle MMA rules

Wrestling your opponent to the ground is a foul in boxing or kickboxing. But it is quite ordinary in mixed martial arts, or MMA.

Colorado’s Legislature and staff apparently believe the Office of Boxing regulates MMA as well as boxing and kickboxing. If so, they should take another look. You won’t find MMA defined under the list of martial arts subject to legislative approved rules.

The recent Department of Regulatory Agencies Sunset report points out the statute regulating boxing and kickboxing does not cover MMA. Boxing is defined in CRS 12-10-103 (1) and kickboxing in CRS 1-10-103 (9). Both include some of what makes up MMA but, according to the DORA report, there are variations.

“Consequently” suggests DORA “it could be argued that MMA bouts are not currently under the jurisdiction of the Boxing Commission and the Office of Boxing.” Therefore, “current MMA licensees, or any other licensed professionals, including promoters who provide a variety of activities including health insurance for fighters, are not subject to regulation.”

Grappling (wrestling) skills are an important part of MMA, but cannot be used in boxing or kickboxing. MMA bouts are the fastest growing part of the fighting supposedly under supervision in Colorado, and it’s important for them to come under Sunset review jurisdiction.

DORA seems to agree, even suggesting the following definition:

“MMA means a participant who competes in a bout with the use of a combination of techniques from boxing and from different disciplines of martial arts including grappling, kicking and striking and may include the use of full, unrestrained physical force.”

Possibly, contestants who have been injured in MMA bouts involving grappling — which is not permitted in boxing or kickboxing — might consider how to use the DORA position as the basis for lawsuits.

Comparisons among the three types of contests:

• Fouls:

— Boxing: Low blows (striking below the belt), biting, punching the back of an opponent’s head, wrestling.

— Kickboxing: Head butting; striking to the groin, spine, throat, collarbone or kidneys; kicking into the knee, striking below the belt.

— MMA: Head butting, eye gouging, hair pulling, groin attacks.

• Length of contest, males:

— Boxing: DORA rules for non-championship fights call for four rounds of three minutes each, with a one minute rest between rounds.

— Kickboxing: Three to 12 rounds of three minutes each, with one-minute rests between rounds.

— MMA: Two or three rounds of three or five minutes each, with one-minute rests between rounds.

Meaning of “tough person fighting”

Colorado prohibited “tough person fighting” through SB 45 in 2004. It is a contest among two or more individuals involving combative skills (using) hands, feet or body in ways not recognized or sanctioned by the state, regional or national sanctioning authority.

However, the same bill that prohibited the activity in 2004 adopted CRS 12-10-103 (15), requiring DORA to adopt health and safety standards for tough person fighting.

The Office of Boxing does not license or regulate “tough person fighting” events. Anyone involved in tough person fighting faces a Class One misdemeanor penalty, regardless of whether it is “amateur” or “professional” fighting.

The result: Someone meets the safety standards. Send him to jail. Someone doesn’t meet the standards. Send him to jail.

DORA recommends, “repeal the requirement that DORA adopt standards that allow amateur tough person fighting.”

Disciplinary actions

The director of the Office of Boxing is in charge of disciplining the licensees authorized by boxing statutes. However, the reader will discover no statistics provided by the director as to civil fines or other disciplinary action over the past eight years.

Every other regulatory agency that issues licenses and has disciplinary rules provides the Legislature with those statistics. Did DORA omit the information from this report? Or did the director of the Office of Boxing simply fail to provide the statistics?

The legislative committee assigned to review the DORA report should immediately ask for the violations of statutes and rules and what penalties were levied.

History

The Colorado State Athletic Commission was one of the first regulatory bodies repealed under the Sunset law in 1977. In 1991, DORA’s Sunrise review (new licensing) recommended against regulation. The 1998 Sunrise review recognized Congressional action requiring states without a boxing commission to use a commission from a nearby state to regulate. In 2000, under Gov. Bill Owens, Colorado again began regulating boxing and boxing spinoffs.

Jerry Kopel served 22 years in the Colorado House.