Archive for March, 2016

Adding to this site’s archived safety studies and legal reforms addressing Rapid Extreme Weight Cut practices in MMA and other combat sports, a recent Master’s Thesis paper was published by Oliver Roland Barley at the School of Medical and Health Science EDITH COWAN UNIVERSITY, looking at the effects of Rapid Extreme Weight Cuts in MMA Athletes.

The study, titled “The effects of acute dehydration of 5% body mass on performance and physiology of mixed martial arts athletes” recruited 14 MMA athletes with at least 2 years of competitive experience.  These athletes were broken down into a control group and a group who underwent a rapid extreme weight cut via dehydration where 5% of their bodyweight was lost.

After 3 hours of rehydration both groups  underwent a series of performance tests, including vertical jump, medicine ball throw, wrist grip and repeated sled push.  These were repeated a further 21 hours later after greater rehydration.

Not surprisingly the dehydrated group had compromised performance with the author noting the following results –

As expected, the dehydration observed in this study was associated with a decline in anaerobic and aerobic performance. Indeed, the specific repeat sled push protocol in this study was developed to stress both aerobic and anaerobic metabolism. The present study observed a 19% reduction in average speed over the repeated sled push test alongside a 5% reduction in peak speed. A 6% reduction in average speed of the first five sprints during the repeat sled push test was observed when comparing at 3 h post between conditions. The decrements in repeat sled push test performance were still being observed 24 h post DHY protocol with a 10% reduction in average speed, a 5% reduction in peak sprint time and a 6% reduction in average speed of the first five sprints. Further to these performance changes in the repeat sled push test, an increase in total test time at both 3 h and 24 h post DHY compared with the CONT was observed alongside a significantly larger fatigue index 3 h post DHY protocol. Furthermore, due to exhaustion less athletes were able to complete the repeat sled push test 3 h post DHY

These poor results led the author to conclude that”The observations of this present study indicate that current weight loss practices in MMA and other combat sports may not be conducive to the best physical performance possible. Current practices should be reconsidered since performance was compromised even following 24 h of recovery. Future research should investigate possible physiological mechanisms behind the observed decrement in performance.”

The full study can be found here.

Update March 31, 2016 – John Jones Probation violation hearing was held today and, as first reported by Marc Raimondi, the Court exercised its discretion to tighten Jones’ probation terms.  These include attending anger management courses, driver improvement courses, 60 further hours of community service and not being able to drive without permission of his probation officer.  As reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, the Court concluded the hearing with the following warning for Jones –

Okamoto Tweet

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Screenshot Jon Jones

(Image HT Suzanne Davis)

Earlier today it was revealed that Jon Jones was arrested for an alleged probation violation stemming from a recent traffic stop.

While motor vehicle violations are generally minor incidents they can be compelling for  individuals under probation.

When Jones plead guilty to felony hit and run in September 2015 he was given a stern warning by the presiding judge about the potential consequences of his guilty plea.  I urge you to view the below video to get a sense of these potential consequences –

 

If the judiciary finds Jones violated his probation stemming from his previous guilty plea to a 4th degree felony New Mexico law allows the Court to

  • continue the original probation,
  • revoke the probation and either order a new probation with any condition provided for in Section 31-20-5 or 31-20-6 NMSA 1978, or require the probationer to serve the balance of the sentence imposed or any lesser sentence.
  • If imposition of sentence was deferred, the court may impose any sentence which might originally have been imposed, but credit shall be given for time served on probation.

In other words if Jones is found to have violated his probation he can be facing consequences including potential incarceration and becoming a convicted felon as a result.


Now that the hangover from the celebration of soon to be legal MMA in New York is over its time to face one sober reality. New York’s legislation will, in practice, only allow the biggest players to legally host professional MMA bouts in the State.  Why?  The legislation brings with it a steep insurance requirement, one that only deep pocketed promoters can realistically hope to afford.  In short the legislation requires a minimum protection of $50,000 of coverage per licenced professional for medical surgical and hospital care for injuries sustained in an event.  Additionally the insurance must offer a further minimum of $1 million of coverage for “life-threatening brain injury“. The relevant provisions read as follows:

 All persons, parties or corporations having licenses as promoters
    14  or who are licensed in accordance with section one thousand seventeen of
    15  this article shall continuously provide accident insurance or such other
    16  form of financial guarantee deemed acceptable by the commission, for the
    17  protection of licensed professionals and professional wrestlers, appear-
    18  ing in authorized professional combative  sports  or  wrestling  exhibi-
    19  tions.  Such  accident  insurance  or  financial guarantee shall provide
    20  coverage to the licensed professional for: medical, surgical and  hospi-
    21  tal  care,  with  a minimum limit of fifty thousand dollars for injuries
    22  sustained while participating in any program operated under the  control
    23  of such licensed promoter and for a payment of fifty thousand dollars to
    24  the  estate  of  any  deceased athlete where such death is occasioned by
    25  injuries received in this state during the course of a program in  which
    26  such  licensed  professional or professional wrestler participated under
    27  the promotion or control of any licensed promoter; and, medical,  surgi-
    28  cal  and  hospital  care with a minimum limit of one million dollars for
    29  the treatment of a life-threatening brain injury sustained in a  program
    30  operated under the control of such licensed promoter, where an identifi-
    31  able,  causal  link  exists  between the professional licensee's partic-
    32  ipation in such program and the  life-threatening  brain  injury.

Some stakeholders in the industry have informed me that few insurers would be willing to take on the risk to provide such coverage.   I am not expert in insurance price points for combat sports but one person who is, John McCarthy, speculated that the cost of a policy that complies with New York’s legislation will run a promotion around $100,000 per event and contrasted this with other jurisdictions such as California where the insurance requirements set back promoters between $2,500 and $5,000. McCarthy stated as follows this week on his “Let’s Get it On” Podcast –

The one thing that needs to be brought out here, is this is legalized MMA in the State of New York, but there’s some additions to this…there’s not going to be small promoters doing MMA in New York, not professional, because there are regulations as far as insurance policies and stuff.  Insurance policy for one show is going to cost about $100,000.  Now the UFC can afford that, Bellator can afford that, maybe the World Series of Fighting can afford that, but nobody else can…If you’re looking in the State of California, how much is an insurance policy for a show?   The insurance policy for a show is going to be somewhere in between $2,500 and $5,000….What has been passed is great, I’m all for it, its the step in the direction but only a couple of shows are going to be able to go there.

This is not a criticism of the long overdue legislation. It is good to see government seeking to protect the athletes that put their health on the line for the entertainment of the public and potential profits of promoters.  It is simply an observation worth noting. Professional MMA will be legal in New York as soon Andrew Cuomo puts pen to paper.  From there only the big fish will get to play in the Empire State.

Update April 11, 2016Today it was announced that Gunn’s bout will be at the Miccosukee Resort & Gaming casino in greater Miami.

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Update April 6, 2016 – Whatever Commission will be overseeing this event, it will not be the Florida State Boxing Commission who have replied as follows –

Mr. Magraken,

This is in response to your recent article titled, “Legal Bare-knuckle Boxing Coming to Florida?”.

Bare-knuckle fighting is illegal in Florida. As such, the Florida State Boxing Commission will not sanction a bare-knuckle fighting event. Anyone who participates in or organizes such an event is subject to administrative and criminal penalties.

As you may be aware, tribal lands are sovereign territory. A bare-knuckle event occurring on tribal land would fall outside of the Boxing Commission’s jurisdiction.

Thank you for this opportunity to respond.

Paul Waters

Executive Director

Florida State Boxing Commission

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Overshadowed by this week’s major combat sports regulatory news, the imminent legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in New York State, is perhaps an equally fascinating development – the potential legalization of bare knuckle  boxing in Florida.

For months bare knuckle boxing champion Bobby Gunn has been suggesting that a US State Athletic Commission was amenable to sanctioning a bare knuckle boxing event.  Today Gunn tweeted a short clip from a press conference indicating that Florida will be the host to the long rumored bare knuckle bout –

In the clip its noted that “On June 11, 2016 we are very pleased to announce that we will be coming out of hiding and we will have the first legal sanctioned bare knuckle boxing match since 2011 in the United States of America in the great State of Florida

The above clip does not make it clear if the Florida State Boxing Commission will be regulating the event or if the sanctioning body will be another entity such as a Tribal Athletic Commission.

I have reached out to both Bobby Gunn and to the Florida State Boxing Commission for comment and will update this article if/when they reply.

While a common initial reaction is to view bare knuckle fighting as perhaps a more barbaric version of combative sport, counter-intuitively removing gloves from the equation likely decreases the rate of traumatic brain injuries sustained by competitors.

As discussed in 2014, when gloves were added to MMA the knockout rate from punches increased tenfold.  Removing gloves from combat sports increases the rate of fractured hands and superficial lacerations to competitors, and perhaps eye injuries, the removal of gloves from the sport can reduce head trauma.  If government and combative sport stakeholders review the rules of the sport with brain injury in mind the data is fairly clear that gloves protect the hands, not the brain.

This is an interesting development that I will continue to keep an eye on and update this article once more regulatory information comes to light.

 

 

In a sport where announced ‘retirement’ is frequently far from final there are often rumors swirling of the imminent return of former stars in the UFC.

How easily can a ‘retired’ UFC fighter return to the promotion given the new USADA Anti-Doping Policy?

As previously discussed as soon as a fighter announces retirement they cease to be subject to anti-doping testing by USADA.  If they wish to return, however, they need to provide “written notice of his/her intent to resume competing” and then make themselves available for testing for at least four months prior to their first bout.

The custom tailored UFC/USADA anti-doping policy, however, has carved out an exception to this 4 month period at the UFC’s sole discretion with the policy stating the “UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to the Athlete

It is unclear what the UFC considers to amount to ‘exceptional circumstances‘ or when applying a 4 month testing window would be ‘manifestly unfair‘ to a returning athlete.

This loophole does not exist for an Athlete who retires while suspended for an anti-doping violation under the policy.  Those athletes must make themselves available for testing for at least 4 months prior to returning to the sport after ‘retirement’.

For any fighters contemplating retirement or a return from retirement, and for media reporting on rumored returns, the relevant ADP sections read as follows –

5.7 Former UFC Athletes Returning to UFC Competition

5.7.1 An Athlete who gives notice of retirement to UFC, or has otherwise ceased to have a contractual relationship with UFC, may not resume competing in UFC Bouts until he/she has given UFC written notice of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for a period of four months before returning to competition. UFC may grant an exemption to the four-month written notice rule in exceptional circumstances or where the strict application of that rule would be manifestly unfair to an Athlete

5.7.2 If an Athlete retires from UFC competition while subject to a period of Ineligibility, the Athlete shall not resume competing in UFC Bouts or competitions approved or sanctioned by an Athletic Commission until the Athlete has given four months prior written notice (or notice equivalent to the period of Ineligibility remaining as of the date the Athlete retired, if that period was longer than four months) to UFC of his/her intent to resume competing and has made him/herself available for Testing for that notice period.

 

Update April 14, 2016 – Today New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed the bill into law making professional MMA finally legal in the Empire State.  The first legal event will be able to be hosted as early as September 1, 2016

Genia Tweet

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Bill A02604 is set to be voted on by the New York State Assembly next week and as long time New York MMA Journalist Jim Genia reports “the bill will pass next week”.

So what does Bill A02604 do? Below are six highlights previously provided by Genia of the Bill which was revamped in mid 2015 to secure greater legislative support –

  • Amateur MMA is permitted, and will be sanctioned by the Athletic Commission or by third-party organizations approved by the Commission. There will be no more unsanctioned events allowed;
  • The Commission will have jurisdiction over all combative sports, including professional wrestling, martial arts and kickboxing. The list of organizations approved for sanctioning of martial arts events is gone, and the Commission will lay out criteria for third-party organizations to get approval to operate within the state;
  • These third-party organizations may have the power to sanction pro combative sports, including MMA events;
  • The Commission will have jurisdiction (and licensing ability) over gyms that provide sparring in preparation for pro boxing or pro MMA bouts;
  • Accident insurance for a minimum of $50,000 is required by all pro combative sports promoters, with a million dollar insurance minimum for competition injuries resulting in major brain injuries; and,
  • All combative sporting events, pro or amateur, will pay an 8.5% tax on gate and a 3% tax on broadcasting rights sold (this includes Internet broadcasts)

I’ve had an opportunity to review the legislation in full and, in addition to the above highlights, there are two other noteworthy points –

  • Not only are gyms regulated, but the legislation sets our a host of requirements for these.  All training facilities ‘providing contact sparring maintained either exclusively or in part for the use of professional combative sports participants‘ will need to meet the following criteria –
 
     AT A MINIMUM, ANY SUCH REGULATION SHALL REQUIRE:
       (I) FIRST AID MATERIALS TO BE STORED IN AN ACCESSIBLE LOCATION ON  THE
     PREMISES  AND  FOR  THE PRESENCE ON THE PREMISES OF A PERSON TRAINED AND
     CERTIFIED IN THE USE OF SUCH MATERIALS AND PROCEDURES FOR  CARDIO-PULMO-
     NARY  RESUSCITATION  AT  ALL TIMES DURING WHICH THE FACILITY IS OPEN FOR
     TRAINING PURPOSES;
       (II) CLEAN AND SANITARY BATHROOMS, SHOWER ROOMS, AND LOCKER ROOMS;
       (III) ADEQUATE VENTILATION AND LIGHTING OF  ACCESSIBLE  AREAS  OF  THE
     TRAINING FACILITY;
       (IV)  ESTABLISHMENT  OF A POLICY CONCERNING THE RESTRICTION OF SMOKING
     IN TRAINING AREAS, INCLUDING  PROVISIONS  FOR  ITS  ENFORCEMENT  BY  THE
     FACILITY OPERATOR;
       (V) COMPLIANCE WITH STATE AND LOCAL FIRE ORDINANCES;
       (VI)  INSPECTION AND APPROVAL OF SURFACES ON WHICH TRAINING FOR COMBA-
     TIVE SPORTS WILL BE HELD; AND
       (VII) ESTABLISHMENT OF A POLICY FOR  POSTING  ALL  COMMISSION  LICENSE
     SUSPENSIONS AND LICENSE REVOCATIONS RECEIVED FROM THE COMMISSION INCLUD-
     ING  PROVISIONS  FOR  ENFORCEMENT OF SUCH SUSPENSIONS AND REVOCATIONS BY
     THE FACILITY OPERATOR.
       (B) A PROSPECTIVE ENTITY LICENSEE SHALL SUBMIT TO THE COMMISSION PROOF
     THAT IT CAN FURNISH SUITABLE FACILITIES IN WHICH THE TRAINING IS  TO  BE
     CONDUCTED,  INCLUDING  THE  MAKING OF SUCH TRAINING FACILITIES AVAILABLE
     FOR INSPECTION BY THE COMMISSION AT ANY TIME DURING WHICH TRAINING IS IN
   45  PROGRESS.
  • The legislation also mandates that the State conduct a study aimed and arriving at options for providing ‘medical and rehabilitative care’  for combative sport participants that sustain ‘repetitive head injuries’ in their career with the relevant section of the Bill reading as follows:
The department of state, with the assistance of the state athlet-
      ic  commission, medical advisory board, departments of health and finan-
      cial services, state insurance fund, division of budget and  such  other
      state  entities as appropriate, shall carefully consider potential mech-
      anisms to provide  financial  resources  for  the  payment  of  expenses
     related  to  medical  and rehabilitative care for professionals licensed
     under article forty-one of  the  general  business  law  who  experience
     debilitating  brain  injuries  associated  with repetitive head injuries
     sustained through their participation in combative sports.  The  depart-
     ment  of  state may consult and contract with third parties for services
     in the course of this review. The department of state shall  report  its
     findings and recommendations to the governor, temporary president of the
     senate  and speaker of the assembly within eighteen months of the effec-
     tive date of this section.

Storied athlete Herschel Walker appeared on this week’s episode of John McCarthy and Sean Wheelock’s “Let’s Get it On” Podcast.  Among the topics covered were Walker’s views on the future of the sport where he voiced strong support for the need of a fighters union. McCarthy asked  “What do want to see from the sport.  What do you expect the sport to be doing in the next 5 years and how are you going to be a part of it?” to which Walker replied as follows –

“…I think this sport needs to have a union.  And the only reason I’m going to say that is…I see guys that are signed to a contract that may not be fighting for a long period of time and I think that’s very difficult.  I think guy’s need to get better insurance, I think they need better pay, I think the sport is growing and I think if they get a union it really can balance it out a little more.  Where guy’s are gonna get more fights, and I know its kind of hard cause this is a tough sport, but I think when you sign a guy, when a guy is on a contract and he has not fought in 6 months his contract should be void. You gotta get fights and you gotta be fighting.  You can’t train all the time and not get fights.  So I think a union can help that out.  And I’d love to be a part of that to help guys out.

It is unclear if Walker is part of the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association but the more high profile athletes like him take the lead and are vocal about the need for balancing the landscape in greater favor of athlete rights the quicker Walker’s desire for fighter representation will become a reality.

 

Dehydration brought on by rapid extreme weight cut practices has led to well documented injuries and death in combat sports.  Despite this combat sport athletes continue these practices under the impression that they lead to competitive advantage.  A recent study was published unfortunately bolstering these beliefs finding that the advantage of competing in a lower weight class may balance out any decrease in strength and explosiveness caused by dehydration.

The recent study, titled “Muscle Contraction Velocity, Strength and Power Output Changes Following Different Degrees of Hypohydration in Competitive Olympic Combat Sports“, which was published this month in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, followed 163 combat sports athletes during the 2013 senior Spanish National Championships.

The Athletes all competed in Olympic combat sports (Boxing, Wrestling or Tae Kwon Do).

The Study revealed that 84% of the athletes were dehydrated at weigh ins (42% severely dehydrated), and while these athletes rehydrated following weigh ins they did not reach euhydration levels by the time of competition.

63% of the Athletes rehydrated to the point of competing in a full weight class higher than that for which they made weight.

The study had the athletes undergo various muscle strength and power output exercises both at weigh ins and following rehydration for competition. The dehydrated athletes had reduced neuromuscular performance but these muscle function losses were partly regained with rehydration by the time of competition.

The study went on to find that the medal winners ranked among the most dehydrated at weigh ins leading the authors to conclude that “Perhaps, the advantage of competing in a weight category below the athlete’s habitual weight, balances the negative effects of competing somewhat hypohydrated.

Given that athletes are sometimes more motivated by results over safety, this study emphasizes the ongoing need for Athletic Commissions and other combat sports regulatory bodies to remain ever vigilant about the dangers of rapid extreme weight cuts and to ensure that sensible practices are in place to protect overzealous athletes from themselves.

The full study an be found here.

Update June 7, 2016Mitrione’s appeal was dismissed today by the MSAC.  For appeals like this to have any chance of success statutory overhaul is needed as commissions need to work within the statutory parameters of the rules and regulations creating and defining their authority.  You can watch the full hearing here:


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Mitrione Twitter Pic Screenshot

Earlier this week Matt Mitrione filed a complaint with the Massachusetts Athletic Commission following a TKO loss to Travis Browne in a fight which involved at least two unfortunate eye pokes.

In short Mitrione argues that the protocols following fouls were not properly followed by the referee and further that a foul was not spotted in a timely fashion.

Whether there is merit to Mitrione’s arguments his complaint will likely be stopped dead in its tracks for jurisdictional / procedural reasons.

As Francisco Rivera learned following a controversial loss which was precipitated by an eye poke, the Nevada State Athletic Commission ruled they have no regulatory jurisdiction to over-rule a bout in such circumstances. 

Massachusetts is modeled after the NSAC regulations which are very strict about when a bout result can be overturned (basically fraud, a math error in adding up the scorecards or a ref outright admitting that he did not understand the rules)

Section 14.21 of Massachusetts Regulations, which read identically to  their counterpart in Nevada, only allows a contest to be overturned in the following three circumstances

1.  The Commission determines that there was collusion affecting the result of the contest or exhibition;

2.  The compilation of the scorecards of the judges discloses an error which shows that the decision was given to the wrong unarmed combatant; or

3.  As the result of an error in interpreting a provision of this chapter, the referee has rendered an incorrect decision.

The only hope Mitrione has is the third ground but to date this ground of appeal has been interpreted very narrowly by Athletic Commissions and likely will be the undoing of Mitrione’s appeal.

If Mitrione’s appeal falls short he and other stakeholders not pleased with the limited statutory grounds in which bout results can be reviewed should consider approaching the Association of Boxing Commissions MMA Rules and Regulations Committee  with suggestions to broaden current appeal rights.

As recently discussed, New Jersey, and jurisdictions that model the State, allow bout results to be overturned where there is palpable error with Administrative Code Rule 13:46-8-30 reading ““The Commissioner may in his discretion change a referee’s decision if in his judgment a palpable and self-evident error has been committed“”.

Another model is Brazil’s who have a relevant rule reading as follows –

“The Executive Committee may, on an exceptional basis, revert a decision to “no contest” if it determines that a good faith judgment call of a referee was mistaken and therefore considered a self-evident error. Such decision may be taken provided (i) an appeal is filed with the commission within 72 hours of the relevant bout, (ii) the appeal is accompanied by a video (or link thereto) of the bout showing the challenged judgment call, (iii) upon request by the Executive Committee, the relevant referee presents a written justification of his judgment call and (iv) after analysis of the relevant video and justification, the Executive Committee determines that the judgment call was in good faith but considered a self-evident error.”