This week former professional wrestler Phil Brooks (aka CM Punk) is making his long anticipated debut in the UFC.
Brooks’ debut at the sports highest stage is controversial as he has no history of amateur or professional MMA bouts and unlike some professional wrestlers who made the crossover such as Brock Lesnar, he does not boast an experienced amateur combative sports resume. His opponent on the other hand, has a 4-0 record in his professional and amateur career.
Brooks cannot be faulted for pursuing his dream. It is also difficult to fault a promoter for putting on a controversial fight as controversy sells and promoters are in the money making business.
Regulators, on the other hand, play a role when it comes to scrutinizing controversial bouts and here the CM Punk saga takes an interesting legal twist.
UFC 203 takes place in Cleveland, Ohio and is regulated by by Ohio Athletic Commission.
The requirements for a professional combative sports licence vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and Ohio has specific requirements in place for those wishing to turn pro. Ohio Administrative Code 3773-7-20(E) sets out the following standard:
A mixed martial arts fighter will be required to have a minimum of five recorded amateur bouts with a winning record prior to being permitted to compete as a professional mixed martial arts fighter. They may appeal to the executive director or Ohio athletic commission to have this waived.
CM Punk does not meet this standard meaning the Commission has exercised a waiver of this safety standard in order to allow him to make his UFC Debut.
I have written to the Ohio Athletic Commission for comment about the factors they considered in waiving this safety standard for CM Punk. I will update this article if/when they reply.
While a waiver can navigate this regulation, Subsection (F) is arguably a complete stumbling block which, if applicable to CM Punk, would require the 37 year old fighter to compete in a masters division for 3 events. The Regulations don’t allow for a waiver of this criteria which reads as follows:
Masters division: applies to all amateur mixed martial arts contestants ages thirty-five and over. They must compete in this division until they have competed in a minimum of three events. After three events and a winning record they may apply to the executive director or commission to be able to compete in all levels of amateur or professional competition.
While CM Punk is not an ‘amateur’ this is solely due to the exercise of the Commission’s discretion. The spirit of subrule (F) is to apply to all debuting Mixed Martial Artist’s over aged 35 requiring them to compete with enhanced safety measures and waiver is not permitted.