This week the Nevada Athletic Commission green lit the new combat spectacle of ‘slap fighting‘. In short a competition where competitors allow themselves to be slapped in the head without utilizing defence to avoid the impact.
Rose Gracie of Fighting Foundation, a charitable organization I’m involved with which has spearheaded various noteworthy health and safety initiatives in combat sports, reached out to the Nevada Athletic Commission inquiring about health and safety protocols for this ‘defenceless’ competition.
Deputy Attorney General Joel Bekker replied, sharing the following regulatory details:
Without violating any confidential information, I can assure you that licensed doctors, with knowledge and experience working with unarmed combat athletes, were consulted with to assure that Slap Fighting, like all other regulated unarmed combat sports in Nevada, is conducted as safely as possible, with the ultimate goal being the health and safety of all participants.
With that in mind, the Commission is requiring of any organization wishing to host an event featuring contests or exhibitions of Slap Fighting that all Participants will submit the following pre-test medicals and cannot participate in a Match unless cleared by the supervising physician:
(1) blood count and results of medical tests no earlier than 30 days before the date of first the Match of the calendar year in which Participant is participating in and which show that the Participant is not infected with the human immunodeficiency virus or the hepatitis virus;
(2) physical exam by a licensed physician at least 7 days before the date of the first Match in which the Participant plans to compete in and is good for the calendar year,
(3) a dilated ophthalmologic eye examination at least 7 days before the date of the first Match in which the Participant plans to compete in and is good for the calendar year,
(4) a brain magnetic resonance imaging scan performed within 1 year immediately preceding the Match and
(5) a cerebral magnetic resonance angiography performed at neurological exam performed within 1 year immediately preceding the Match. Female Participants must provide the results of an appropriate test, not later than 10 days before the date of the Match, demonstrating that they are not pregnant.
Further, for each event featuring Slap Fighting in Nevada, the promoter will ensure that the following safety protocols are in place:
(i) supervising physician and one additional physician or licensed physician assistant,
(ii) emergency medical technicians (3) & ambulances (3),
(iii) a suture and (iv) at least one local hospital arrangement.
The above protocols mirror those currently in place for Professional Mixed Martial Arts, and are thus, at the highest level currently possible.
Furthermore, Slap Fighting competitors are mandated to wear protective gear during their bouts including a tooth/gum shield and cotton ear padding, also, the scoring target area deliberately excludes the eyes, nose, chin, neck, and temple areas of the head and face. Strikes outside that area are considered Fouls, and are discouraged via reduction of points for that strike. And finally, all competitions will have “Catchers”, or “Spotters” behind the defensive competitor to ensure that struck competitors do not hit the ground hard, especially their heads.
While all of the above are in place to protect the health and safety of the competitors, being struck in the face and head, with any part of an opponent’s body, is inherently dangerous, and there will be occasional injuries. Due to that inherent danger this sport is considered to be unarmed combat and is thus to be regulated by the Commission. That will ensure all pre-bout medical and safety protocols will be followed, to reduce the chance of injury, and that proper medical personnel, including ambulance transportation and EMT crews will be on hand to diagnose and treat the injuries that do arise.
Regulating a dangerous event can make things safer. No one argues with that.
But there is key difference between combat sports and slap fighting worth keeping in mind. Combat sports ask athletes to defend themselves at all times. When they can’t the bout is over. Slap fighting, on the other hand, asks participants not to defend themselves at all. And the only legal target allowed is the head bringing high brain injury potential. That is the fundamental criticism the NSAC is overlooking.