Illinois Introduces Bill To Deregulate Amateur Combative Sports

Update June 1, 2016 – I am advised that this Bill, due to critical public feedback, has been slowed down and sent back to Committee and will not resurface until at least December when, hopefully, it revised to ensure objective safety standards are put into place.


Update May 28, 2016 – This Bill has not yet made it out of the Senate with it now being revised prior to vote.  The amended bill can be found here.

In short, the amended bill has made it clear that it will allow not-for-profit organizations host amateur “full contact” martial arts contests which include amateur MMA as there was some ambiguity with the original Bill.  The amended Bill also will require that a “sanctioning body”oversee such an event.

A shortcoming of the bill, however, is that it has an “Incumbent Sanctioning Body” loophole which will allow any “organization that notifies the Department in writing that it is a recognized sanctioning body in more than 10 American States” to automatically be a sanctioning body with no further oversight required.  This is problematic on two fronts, the first is there appears to be no due diligence in the organization proving they are recognized in more than 10 States, they simply need to tell the Department that they are.

Secondly, and perhaps more problematically, once an organization is recognized as an Incumbent Sanctioning Body they are free to call the shots as they see fit when overseeing an amateur full contact event.  Many corners can be cut when it comes to safety standards under this law. If such an organization removes any of the below basic safety measures they would be free to do so and the State could not intervene under this legislation

  • HIV testing
  • Hepatitis testing
  • Eye exams
  • Pre and post-bout physical exams by a physician
  • Having an ambulance on site
  • Having paramedics on site
  • Reporting of injuries to the national record-keeping organization
  • Requiring standard time off after bouts or injuries
  • State inspection of hand wraps for foreign bodies like metal or plaster
  • Requirements for physical ring and cage safety
  • Certified or licensed referees
  • Expert matchmaking to ensure safety, including the checking of win/loss records
  • Application and identity verification of fighters
  • Standardized weight classes (they could create their own weight classes at will)

If the State wants to pass the buck to private organizations that’s fine, but not at the expense of allowing safety to be compromised. This bill needs to be tightened up or it should not pass. Locals in Illinois should speak up to their government representatives promptly.


Update  May 25, 2016 – I am advised this bill made it out of committee today and is expected for Senate vote this Friday leaving little time for those who oppose this legislation to voice their concerns.

In what appears to be a huge step backwards in the world of combat sports regulation, the Illinois General Assembly has introduced a Bill which, if passed, will deregulate a host of amateur combative sports, including amateur MMA in essence stripping the sport of all consistent central safety oversights.

The proposed legislation, AMENDMENT TO HOUSE BILL 1646, carves out the following numerous exceptions to events which will not need any government oversight

  1. Amateur boxing or full-contact martial arts contests conducted by accredited secondary schools, colleges, or universities, although a fee may be charged
  2. Amateur boxing contests that are sanctioned by USA Boxing or any other sanctioning organization approved by the Association of Boxing Commissions
  3. Amateur boxing or full-contact martial arts contests sponsored by a State, county, or municipal entity.
  4. Amateur martial arts contests that are not defined as full-contact martial arts contests under this Act, including, but not limited to Karate, Kung Fu, Judo, Jujutsu, Tae Kwon Do and Kyuki-Do
  5. Full-contact martial arts contests, as defined by this Act, that are recognized by the International Olympic Committee or are contested in the Olympic Games are are not conducted in an enclosed fighting area or ring
  6. Amateur boxing or martial arts contests that are conducted by a not-for-profit organisation

“Amateur” contests include contests where promoters can charge a fee to the public and participants can receive a non-monetary prize worth no more than $50 in value or “a stipend for an athletic club or sponsor of the contestant to cover the cost of training and participation expenses not to exceed $1,500

Also noteworthy are that ‘full contact martial arts’ are defined to expressly include MMA.

In short this legislation will allow a host of ways for promoters to host for profit combat sports events without the need to comply with any state sanctioned medical requirements such as blood testing, physicals, results reporting, suspensions and other practices which have developed to ensure the integrity of these sports.

It is difficult to understand why a legislature believes this broad stripping of oversight is a good idea and if any stakeholders in the Illinois combat sports community agree now is the time to speak up to ensure this legislation is properly scrutinized before having a chance to pass.


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