Athlete Health Remains at Risk Following House Bill 1388 in Missouri, USA; Local Combat Sport Events ‘May Go Out of Business Altogether’

By Dane McGuire, IMMAF U.S. Correspondent

The United State Mixed Martial Arts Kick International Federation (UMMAF,) headquartered in St. Louis, Missouri, USA can no longer sanction amateur MMA in the state.

Representative David Gregory’s House Bill 1388, also known as the “child safety and deregulation bill” according to The Missouri Times, is effective as of August 28. This means control over sanctioning amateur MMA, kickboxing, as well as pro wrestling, has shifted to the Missouri Division of Professional Registration’s Office of Athletics.

Olympic combat sports such as boxing remain unaffected by HB 1388 thanks to their protected status under the Ted Stevens Olympic and Amateur Sports Act of 1978. Acceptance of MMA by the IOC would, in turn, render Gregory’s bill obsolete despite the fact it is law at present.

The legislation proposed by Gregory also prevents competitors under the age of 18, hurting the UMMAF’s United States Fight League (USFL) youth development branch, which is a requirement for the potential Olympic recognition of MMA.

“Now the regulation being proposed is not allowing kids under the age of 18 to get their heads bashed in, in a cage fight. They can still train, they can still fight in all mixed areas of martial arts, they just can’t ground and pound in a cage,” Gregory said by way of The Missouri Times in March.

The USFL held its sole event in Missouri on August 4, an event with rules tailored to safe youth competition in which there were no injuries to athletes (aged 8-17 under USFL rules.) Additionally, the use of headgear is a requirement at all USFL events.

“We believe this law was drafted to halt dangerous youth MMA competitions and not jiu-jitsu, pankration or continuous sparring karate,” USFL President Jon Frank said. “The USFL Class B rules prohibit knockouts, head strikes, dangerous takedowns and dangerous submissions. Upon application, these rules track an overall injury rate of 1.5% after almost 1500 athletic exposures with zero concussions. Past practices of prohibition have shown increases in dangerous and unregulated competitions, something no one wants.”

UMMAF Vice President Ryan Brueggeman commented:

“The ramifications of this legislation are far reaching and at the same time perplexing. With the Missouri State Athletic Commission taking over sanctioning of Amateur MMA, we can expect fewer events within the state. This means less opportunity to compete for these athletes.

“In addition, with the way the new rules are written, amateur athletes would be allowed to use professional level techniques after just 5 fights. This would disqualify those fighters from the UMMAF National Amateur Championships and any IMMAF tournament, anywhere in the world.

“States need to start looking on a global level and understand where the sport of amateur MMA is going. UMMAF has had to disqualify many amateurs from competing in international competition because their state has allowed certain techniques in prior competition that would label the athlete a pro.

“UMMAF attempted to reach out to every State Senator and House Representative in the state of Missouri by phone and by email to inform them that this bill would hurt amateur athletes in the state and rob them of opportunity and safe competition. We did not receive a response.”

HB 1388 also subjects amateur MMA, kickboxing, and pro wrestling events to a $25,000 surety bond as part of the licensing process. The bond was previously a mere $5,000. The increase will also stymie professional events which also feature amateur bouts. A number of promoters based in the state may go out of business altogether.

“It is very concerning to UMMAF that the circumstances around this bill have been kept under wraps, and that the Missouri State Government has relied on false information provided by Tim Lueckenhoff, Executive Director of the Missouri State Athletic Commission, as a means of funneling money to the commission. UMMAF struggles to accept the sudden concern of Mr. Lueckenhoff regarding safety, when evidence leans to the contrary.

“Most importantly,” the UMMAF president added, “it means that a fighter could be knocked out at an UMMAF regulated event and because the state would not honor the suspension recommendation levied by UMMAF and the Missouri state licensed physician that issued it, he or she could fight the very next week on another card in an event sanctioned by someone else, including the Missouri State Athletic Commission, after having been severely concussed.

“The next issue is the fee that UMMAF paid to be a sanctioning entity in Missouri. In other states such as Nevada, UMMAF is a licensed sanctioning entity after having our rules and procedures approved by the NSAC along with our licensing fee. When we regulate an event, we send those results to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The results and any medical suspensions are entered into the national ABC database. We followed the same procedure in Missouri after having paid a fee for our license, yet the results were entered into the ABC database as ‘unsanctioned’ with medical suspensions unrecognized.

“It begs the question, what were we paying for? Why is the State of Missouri suddenly worried about fighter safety when it is clear that Tim Lueckenhoff was not interested before? The only answer I can up come up with is that this is a money grab for the Missouri State Athletic Commission.

“Amateur MMA should not be used as a method of funding a state athletic commission, because it only drives up the price of the events that grass roots promoters put on and in some cases puts amateur athletes in financial difficulty just to be able to compete.

“It is very concerning to UMMAF that the circumstances around this bill have been kept under wraps, and that the Missouri State Government has relied on false information provided by Tim Lueckenhoff, Executive Director of the Missouri State Athletic Commission as a means of funneling money to the commission and state.  We cannot accept that all of a sudden Mr. Lueckenhoff is concerned about safety when the evidence is clearly contrary.”

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