Jerry Kopel

Mixed Martial Arts Regulation

By Jerry Kopel

Nov. 22, 2009

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

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 a definition of MMA as being subject to legislative approved rules.

The recent Dept. 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 there are variations according to the DORA report.

"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 not useable for boxing or kickboxing. What's most important under the Sunset review is to have jurisdiction over MMA as those bouts are the fastest growing part of the fighting supposedly under supervision in Colorado. DORA even suggests 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 might consider how to use the DORA position as the basis for lawsuits as to grappling, for one example which is not permitted in boxing or kickboxing.

Comparisons of three types of typical contestant fouls:

Boxing: Low blows (punching below the belt); biting an opponent; punching the back of an opponent's head; wrestling an opponent.

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

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

Length of contest, males:

Boxing: DORA states other than championship fights, four rounds each three minutes, with one minute between as rest.

Kickboxing: Three to 12 rounds each three minutes, with one minute rest between.

MMA: Two or three rounds, each round three or five minutes, with one minute of rest between.

Meaning of "tough person fighting":

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

Despite being prohibited, the legislature in 2004, in the same bill 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 face 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 discipline of the different 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. Why did DORA omit the information from this report, or did the director of the Office of Boxing simply ignore providing the statistics?

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

Past 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.)

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