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Ready to rumble: Lawmakers hope to bring UFC to MA

By Kelsey Abbruzzese
Associated Press Writer / April 16, 2009
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BOSTON—Lawmakers hoped Thursday to regulate mixed martial arts bouts in Massachusetts, saying oversight would protect fighters and haul in millions of dollars because of economic activity.

The Public Safety Committee heard a bill filed by Sen. James Timilty, D-Walpole, that would expand jurisdiction of the state's boxing commission to include mixed martial arts and require events be licensed by the commission.

Timilty, who calls himself a fan of the fast-growing sport, says events are already happening in Massachusetts and adding sensible regulations would affirm the sport.

Promoters that choose not to operate in Massachusetts because the sport is unregulated would begin holding events, Timilty said, bringing in about $100,000 in licensing fees.

Officials from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest professional association for mixed martial arts, said economic activity generated from fights would bring in $12.3 million.

"Every bit helps, especially in this budget climate," Timilty said.

UFC officials testified they embrace regulation because they want the commission involved in events for safety and promotion. They estimated other groups held 30 mixed martial arts events in Massachusetts in 2008.

Regulated bouts would require a referee, physician and three licensed judges on site, and all licensed competitors would have to be at least 18 years old with a physician's approval and wearing protective devices.

Kenny Florian, a UFC fighter from Dover, Mass., said the most common question he receives is when he will fight in his home state. Florian said he has not fought in a state that does not regulate mixed martial arts.

"I know when i go to fight with UFC, I'm going to have the best physicians, the best drug testing, everything that would protect the fighters," Florian said. "That's taken care of before, during and after the fight. It makes me focus on my job that much better."

A 2006 study by Johns Hopkins University found that the knockout rate in mixed martial arts appears to be lower than in boxing, and there have been no deaths in the sport in the United States. The study also said the most common injuries were facial cuts.

Terrel Harris, spokesman for the Executive Office for Public Safety and Security, said the administration supports the regulations. Since mixed martial arts is no longer what Arizona Sen. John McCain described as "human cockfighting" because of the addition of referees, weight classes and time limits. Harris said his office hasn't heard of opposition to the bill.

"They're happening anyway in Massachusetts, so we may as well know what's going on and have some say-so," Harris said.