Opinion

MMA Is Facing A Fight On Capitol Hill That Could Harm The UFC For No Good Reason

Drew Johnson National Director, Protect Internet Freedom

A misguided lawmaker is picking a fight with America’s fastest growing sport.

Representative Markwayne Mullin wants to choke the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) with unnecessary red tape. The legislation, which is being pushed at the behest of the trial attorneys and union leaders, would harm the company’s product and growth without doing anything to benefit Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighters or improve the sport for fans.

The Oklahoma Republican hopes to apply dated federal laws used to clean up boxing a generation ago to MMA, even though the issues that battered boxing have nothing to do with the UFC.

The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act – better known as the “Ali Act” – was passed in 2000 to address myriad problems plaguing boxing, including unscrupulous promoters who ignored conflicts of interest, financially exploited boxers and pressured athletes into lengthy contracts.

MMA is already tightly regulated by state athletic commissions in addition to international federations which all work in the best interest of the sport. Because of those rules, as well as the UFC’s internal business structure and the free market, the organization isn’t troubled by the Don King-style con men the Ali Act is intended to protect against.

Arizona Sen. John McCain recently indicated that he would support Rep. Mullin’s plan to burden the MMA community with the Ali Act for safety reasons.

McCain’s support for expanding the legislation is rooted in his newfound, and commendable, concern over head injuries. But the Ali Act doesn’t do anything to protect boxers from concussions – and it certainly wouldn’t benefit UFC fighters, who are already subjected to arguably the best concussion protocol in all of sports.

If a UFC fighter is diagnosed with a concussion, he or she cannot compete, or even make contact during workouts, for 90 days. Other concussion-prone sports such as the NFL, NHL and NASCAR don’t apply standards nearly that strict.

Last year, the UFC also implemented what may be the most stringent anti-doping policy in all of athletics. The rules are administered by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency and are considered to be tougher than Olympic anti-doping standards.

Further, UFC fighters receive health insurance and accident insurance which includes coverage for injuries sustained during training.

While applying the Ali Act to the UFC wouldn’t do anything to help protect the fighters’ health, safety or bank accounts, it would get the federal government in the business of micromanaging MMA operations. Mullin’s proposal would put Congress and federal bureaucrats in charge of ranking fighters, scheduling fights and even forcing fighters from one sanctioning body into fighting fighters from another.

That little wrinkle in the legislation is the real reason why some lesser-known MMA sanctioning bodies are supporting Mullin in his effort to expand the Ali Act to cover MMA.

If Mullin’s vision of federal regulation was applied to MMA, D.C. bureaucrats could force a UFC star like Anderson Silva, Stipe Miocic, Jon Jones, Conor McGregor or Ronda Rousey to battle a fighter from some two-bit promotion company. The UFC would be forced to spend marketing dollars and put their fighters at risk for bouts that would give legitimacy and name recognition to UFC competitors, but do nothing to benefit the UFC.

To put it another way, it would be like Congress forcing an NFL team to play an Arena League team, or requiring the Cleveland Cavaliers to hit the hardcourt against the Wilmington Sea Dawgs of the Tobacco Road Basketball League. The contests would do nothing to benefit the bigger NFL or NBA teams, but would be a huge opportunity for the lesser teams and leagues to rake in money and gain undeserved exposure by exploiting their larger competitors.

This troubling example of a member of Congress attempting to use government to try to pick winners and losers in the marketplace – and in the Octagon – is unreasonable, unfair and un-American.

America has real problems and Rep. Mullin should focus on those, rather than meddling in MMA and pestering one of America’s most-beloved sports for no good reason.