Archive for the ‘Texas Combat Sports Law’ Category

MMAJunkie’s Steven Marrocco obtained a full copy of Ken Shamrock’s Complaint filed with the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation arguing that his loss against Royce Gracie at Bellator 149 should be overturned.

In short the complaint alleges that Gracie struck Shamrock with an illegal low blow which should have resulted in disqualification, or alternatively, that the referee should have given Shamrock time to recover in which case the result should become a no-contest.

Below is the complaint in full –

Screenshot Shamrock Complaint

Overturning a bout result is a seldom seen occurrence in combative sports.  Nevada, and jurisdictions modeled on their rules, only allow a bout result 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.

New Jersey, and jurisdictions that model the State, allow bout results to be overturned where there is palpable error with the relevant legislation 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“”

The legislation in Texas, however, appears to be silent on if or when a referee decision can be overturned.

Section 61.41(a) of Texas’ Combative Sport Administrative Rules states that “Referees are responsible for enforcing the rules of the bouts and shall exercise immediate authority, direction and control over bouts.”.

Low blows are of course prohibited and this rule seemingly was not enforced.  That said the rules appear silent on if such an oversight allows the TDLR to overturn the bout decision.  Fouls are routinely missed given the fast pace of combative sports and despite this legislative silence it is difficult to imagine the TDLR not wanting to give deference to their official’s in ring call.  Unless the referee is prepared to fall on his sword and admit wrongdoing it is a safe bet the current results will stay intact.  As Morroco reports, the following procedure is now in motion –

According to TDLR spokesperson Susan Stanford, the complaint has been assigned to the TDLR’s enforcement investigator, who will determine whether a violation has occured. If a violation is found, the respondent, in this case referee Montalvo, has 20 days to make a plea of guilty or not guilty. In the case of a not-guilty plea, the matter goes to the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings, which recommends a course of action to the athletic commission. It’s then incumbent on the commission to accept, change or deny the proposal.

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When a grown man chooses to compete in MMA and is over-matched, under-trained and de-conditioned they have to take personal responsibility for their choices.  If they have to resort to rapid extreme weight cut practices to make their contracted weight they again have to accept accountability for harm that comes from their actions.

But personal responsibility is not a concept which only attaches to fighters.  Athletic Commissions have a personal responsibility to do their job adequately.  Athletic Commissions exist first and foremost for combatant safety.  This brings us to Texas and Dada5000.

Friday February 19, 2016 saw what was perhaps one of the most bizarre incidents in the modern era of regulated MMA.  At Bellator 149 Dhafir Harris (Dada5000) apparently had to cut 40 pounds to make the heavyweight limit for his bout with Kimbo Slice.

Harris made weight and was licenced to compete by the Texas Department of Licencing and Regulation, the government entity in charge of professional MMA in the Lone Star State.

The bout ended in memorable fashion with Harris suffering a knockout loss not via punches, but via sheer exhaustion.

It is reported that Harris suffered renal failure as a result of the bout and this was caused by dehydration.  Harris’ family released a statement advising as follows

The doctors have now informed us that Dada had accumulated extremely high levels of potassium in his blood which led to severe dehydration, fatigue and renal failure. The high potassium levels were likely caused by his 40lbs weight loss in preparation for the fight.

Now let’s circle back to the Texas Department of Licencing and Regulation and talk about personal responsibility.

The dangers associated with rapid extreme weight cutting are not new to commissions and in Texas, the jurisdiction where this incident arose,  the Government specifically turned their mind to this.  Section 61.105(f) of Texas’ Combative Sports Administrative Rules deals with evident dehydration at a pre-bout weigh in and reads as follows:

(f) If in an attempt to make weight, a contestant shows evidence of dehydration, having taken diuretics, or other drugs, or having used any other harsh modality, the department shall disqualify the contestant on the advice of the examining physician.

There are two key words in the above passage, “or” and “shall”.  By using the word “or” the rules of statutory interpretation make each one of the listed conditions trigger the consequence of disqualification.  If any of these conditions are met the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation “shall” disqualify the contestant.  Shall leaves no discretion, it is a mandatory consequence.  It may be a harsh result but the rule was presumably written with combatant safety in mind.

It is difficult to imagine how a man can lose 40 lbs by extreme weight cut tactics and not meet the above test for disqualification.  These rules exist for a reason.  MMA’s rapid weight cut injury list is far too long and growing at a consistently troubling pace.  It does not need another death on its hands.

California recently passed some of the most progressive weight cut reforms in the sport.  Other regulators would be wise to follow suit.  The regulation of the sport is only as strong as the weakest link with promoters being able to jurisdiction shop.  With Bellator’s president, Scott Coker, recently saying he would be wary of holding a title fight in California given the State’s reform, coupled with the above fiasco in Texas, the need for consistency could not be clearer to ensure promoters don’t have the option of putting profit over safety.

Royce Gracie photo screenshot

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Today MMA pioneers Royce Gracie and Ken Shamrock will fight for a third time, the first bout between them since the 1990’s.

Much has evolved since the early days of the sport with the elimination of the Gi being all but universal.  But there’s no place like Texas, the governing jurisdiction for this bout, and their unique combative sports administrative rules still allow the Gi.

Specifically Rule 61.111(e) reads as follows –

Contestants may wear shorts, trunks, wrestling singlet, or traditional martial arts Gi, unless otherwise instructed by the Executive Director. Knee braces without metal are permissible. Contestants may not wear shoes of any kind during competition. A male contestant may not wear a shirt during competition.

But don’t expect a throwback to the 1990’s look for Gracie, despite Texas’ unique rules John Morgan reports that Gracie has apparently elected to not don the Gi.

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