Last week the UFC sent Marc Ratner to Washington to testify in opposition of legislation aiming to expand the Muhammad Ali Act to mixed martial arts. (For background you can click here to read what the legislation will do).
In an interesting twist, the UFC’s biggest US based promoter, Bellator MMA, filed a letter with Congress appearing to support the legislation and even noting that its language could be strengthened to expand health standards when it comes to screening for traumatic brain injury.
The letter, written by Tracey Lesetar-Smith current Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs at Viacom Media Networks first gives background explaining the use of promoter owned titles and justification of current contractual practices in MMA. It concludes with the following language in support of the legislation (or at the very least its “intent”):
Bellator relies upon State and Tribal Athletic Commissions to regulate our events. We believe these agencies are best positioned to objectively ensure competitive fairness to the athletes, such as testing for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PEDs), and to enforce critical safeguards of each and every fighter’s health and safety. Commissions can play truly critical roles in testing for and the prevention of both Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI)
and extreme weight cutting – both pressing concerns that the MMA industry is facing.
The efforts of most Commissions are, however, crippled by underfunding, lack of staff, and few resources. It is Bellator’s position that the federal government should do whatever it can to advocate for and support the crucial work of these Commissions.
Given the many dangers of TBI and Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) to combat sports athletes, and especially to boxers, uncovered in the years since the initial enactment of the Muhammad Ali Act, it is Bellator’s position that if Congress is serious about protecting fighter health and safety, it must utilize the opportunity granted by Congressman Mullin’s legislation to raise the threshold requirements for medical
testing to explicitly include tests to detect TBI. It should not merely be “advisable,” as it is in the current incarnation of the Act, that these athletes undergo regular testing for such issues.
It is axiomatic that Fighters are the lifeblood of combat sports. If we do not push the community to regulate with an eye toward their lives after they have hung up their gloves, we have done their futures, their families, and combat sports a great disservice. Increased support for regulators on the ground and promulgating laws that promote consistent regulation are therefore imperative.
In closing, Bellator supports the intent of H.R. 5635 and its goals of transparency, fairness, health, safety, and improving the livelihood of MMA athletes. We look forward to working with the Committee to strengthen the language of the bill in order to allow Bellator to continue growing more competitive in this industry.