A major development in the world of mixed martial arts regulations recently occurred when Congressman Markwayne Mullin (Oklahoma) said that he plans to introduce legislation that would expand the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act to include mixed martial arts as well.
The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act (or Ali Act for short) was enacted on May 26, 2000. The goal of the act is to further protect boxers’ interests, particularly financial ones. According to the act, its goals are to “1. Protect the rights and welfare of boxers, 2. Aid state boxing commissions with the oversight of boxing 3. Increase sportsmanship and integrity within the boxing industry.”
The Ali Act reformed its predecessor, the 1996 Professional Boxing Safety Act, by expanding regulations against exploitation and conflicts of interest. Throughout the process, Congress noted several findings that led them to enact the Ali Act. Some of these include: “Professional boxing is not governed by any league, association, or any form of an established organization like the majority of other sports are … Promoters are taking advantage of the sport by conducting dishonest business affairs,” and “There are no restrictions placed on contracts that boxers agree to with promoters and managers.”
Although some dislike the Ali Act, arguing it is ineffective at enforcing the rules it attempts to set, it has had a positive effect on the sport.
It has not impacted mixed martial arts, though. At the time that the act was passed, MMA was still a young sport with little to no popularity. Because of this, no emphasis was placed on MMA — only boxing was considered in the legislation.
Many people would like to keep it this way. Several different people and organizations have spoken out about why they do not wish to see the act reformed to include MMA. One of these organizations is the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The UFC has spent large amounts of money to fight against being included in any regulations that were originally aimed at boxing.
One of the key reasons that no significant strides have been made towards amending the act to include MMA is that most of the support for the amendment has been verbal support. There has not been a conceited, major push to try and change the act.
That all changed around a year ago.
Since that time, a group of individuals have been attempting to gain traction for potential amendments to the act, namely to add MMA to its reach. These individuals include Nate Quarry, Jon Fitch, and Vinicius Queiroz, just to name a few.
Earlier in the year, Rob Maysey travelled with Quarry and Cung Le to Washington D.C. in an effort to find any allies they could. It was there that they met with Markwayne Mullin. Mullin, who is a former mixed martial artist, has been in favor of amending the act for quite a while.
Mixed martial arts could be on the cusp of a massive change.
Supporters of the reformation of the Ali Act have said that they understand that the problems that affect both boxing and MMA are much bigger than just the Ali Act. However, like with any major task, there must always be a starting point.
Reforming the Ali Act would simply be the first step in a long battle to continue to regulate the world of combat sports. According to MMA fighter Ryan Jimmo, “The overall bigger picture is we want to be grown up like the other leagues. Have an association, be paid a fair wage, have a little bit more balance between the promoter slash owner and the athlete.” Jimmo then continued, “We’ve seen it in all the other sports, from baseball and football, they’ve have all gone through this.”
Eventually, the shady, under-the-table nature of many of these contracts and business deals will be a thing of the past. The wildly inconsistent financial stability of fighters will be succeeded by consistent and reliable pay, like in every other major sport. Although it — and every other sport, for that matter — will always be dangerous, safety regulations and concerns will continue to drive the desire to keep the athletes as safe as possible. The wheels are in motion for a massive shift in power in the world of MMA.
After all, as the old saying goes, Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Edited by Nathan Odom
Featured image by Adam Milliken