Laws on amateur MMA in Illinois could change

Posted by Danielle Hobeika on February - 21 - 2011 with 1 Comment

Promoters, fighters might be subject to same rules as pros

By Jared S. Hopkins, Tribune reporter. Courtesy of the Chicago Tribune.

After loosening the state’s regulatory grip on amateur mixed martial arts over the last few years, officials who oversee the sport are seeking to strengthen Illinois law related to MMA, including requiring fighters to register with the state and state officials to sign off on bouts.

If the legislation is approved, amateur fighters and promoters would need to obtain licenses, which would allow the state to track them while bringing in new revenue through fees, taxes and increased penalties. Fines for violators would jump to $10,000 from $5,000.

The bill, which renews the state’s expiring boxing act, was introduced Feb. 10, almost a year after the Tribune reported that regulation of amateur MMA in Illinois had weakened to the point that an event organizer needed only to notify the state within 20 days.

Under the new bill, promoters of amateur events would be held to the same standards as professional ones. They would be required to submit applications to the Illinois Athletic Commission that detail the location of nearby hospitals and other safety information, provide proof of insurance and list the participating fighters. After a show, they would have to turn over 7 percent of gross revenue from ticket sales, plus additional fees if there is a broadcasting agreement.

The legislation also would extend many of the medical protections now required for professional MMA fighters and boxers to amateurs. Fighters would need to be examined before and after bouts, and doctors would be authorized to stop fights to protect fighters’ health and to recommend medical suspensions to the commission.

A spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation said the existing law has provided a good framework to protect fighters’ health and safety, but that the commission is proposing changes to add further safeguards.

“Registering fighters and licensing promoters will allow us to track events, help maintain the integrity of contestants’ fight records and achieve the level of safety expected by participants and their families in Illinois,” the spokeswoman said in a statement.

Many of the proposed rules are required by other state athletic commissions.

Rep. Angelo “Skip” Saviano, R-Elmwood Park, a sponsor of the legislation, said the state wants to address a gray area in the sport.

“Sometimes there’s professionals disguising as amateurs so they bypass all the licensing requirements,” he said.

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