A bill to create an athletic commission in South Dakota is going nowhere fast, largely thanks to the ignorance of Gov. Dennis Daugaard and state house Rep. Steve Hickey.
Their primary objective is to ban sanctioned mixed martial arts in the state. In a blog post, Hickey writes that, "MMA Cage Fighting is the child porn of sports."
The lack of knowledge and the lack of research both Daugaard and Hickey showed about MMA has to be frightening for persons who live in South Dakota. If they can't be bothered to do the minimal research required to learn that MMA is far safer than other "mainstream" sports, including football, it's scary to think about the laws they'll pass in the state regarding education, health care and budgets.
The UFC is the largest MMA promoter in the world. No fighter has ever suffered traumatic brain injury, let alone died, in the UFC's 20-year history. A 2006 study done by researchers at Johns Hopkins University and which appeared in the Journal of Sports Science and Medicine found MMA has far less traumatic brain injury than other sports.
Mixed Martial Arts competitions have changed dramatically since the first Ultimate Fighting Championship in 1993. The overall injury rate in MMA competitions is now similar to other combat sports, including boxing. Knockout rates are lower in MMA competitions than in boxing. This suggests a reduced risk of TBI [traumatic brain injury] in MMA competitions when compared to other events involving striking.
MMA events must continue to be properly supervised by trained referees and ringside physicians, and the rules implemented by state sanctioning—including weight classes, limited rounds per match, proper safety gear, and banning of the most devastating attacks– must be strictly enforced. Further research is necessary to continue to improve safety in this developing new sport.
A 2008 study released by the British Journal of Sports Medicine reached the same conclusions. After a five-year study, its authors wrote:
Injury rates in regulated professional MMA competition are similar to other combat sports; the overall risk of critical sports-related injury appears low. Additional study is warranted to achieve a better understanding of injury trends and ways to further lower injury risk in MMA.
The simple fact is that a random NFL player is at far greater risk of a serious brain injury than is a random MMA fighter. Sadly, neither Gov. Daugaard nor Rep. Hickey bothered to do much investigation or educate themselves before speaking out.
South Dakota state house Rep. Mark Johnston introduced a bill to create an athletic commission in the state for the express purpose of making the sport safer. According to the Argus Leader, Johnston said his goal is to prevent unregulated events where tragedies could possibly occur.
A state athletic commission's job is, at the core, to protect the fighters. It makes sure the proposed matches are fair and that promoters have doctors and an ambulance at all events. The commissions also require qualified referees, who stop fights when one fighter is in danger. It also requires fighters to undergo extensive medical examinations before fighting to make certain they are fit to compete. States such as Nevada, California and New York, with strong commissions, have discovered injuries fighters didn't know they had and prevented them from competing. That wouldn't be the case in South Dakota, with no commission to require those tests.
A fear of many states with strong commissions is that promoters will travel across state lines to put on shows in states such as South Dakota, where there is no regulation and where, as a result, costs are less. But the result is that it is far less safe for the competitors.
Sadly, neither Daugaard nor Hickey recognize that. Hickey told the Argus Leader he was angered by the thought of his state sanctioning MMA.
I'm offended that the state would legitimize cage-fighting and the bloody violence that those kinds of spectacles create. I think it's interesting that we declare that it is a crime for one human being to strike another, and yet the state now proceeds to legitimize, and label a sport, cage-fighting.
With all due respect, Gov. Daugaard, a few points:
• It is a crime for one human to strike another outside of the bounds of athletic competition. But it is no crime to strike another in the context of sport and when doctors and referees are available to protect the athletes and where the athletes have signed a contract to compete against each other.
• MMA fights sometimes get bloody. But no fighter to my knowledge has ever suffered anything worse than scarring as a result of being cut. It is important to note that a lot of the cuts are on the forehead above the eyes, where they mix with sweat and make them seem far worse than they are.
• States that have athletic commissions ban fighters who have sustained head injuries from competing again for several months. And before even being allowed to practice in a gym, the fighter needs to be cleared by a doctor.
• MMA is a combination of sports, many of which are already legal in South Dakota, including boxing, wrestling, karate, jiu-jitsu and judo.
As unenlightened as Daugaard's response about MMA is, he looks remarkably progressive compared to Hickey. In his blog, Hickey spews over-the-top nonsense such as this:
MMA Cage Fighting is the child porn of sports. The psychological community will tell you that desensitization to violence works exactly like desensitization to porn. You know how porn progresses… a peek at topless isn’t enough, it all has to come off, then a pic is not enough… it goes to video then to virtual and then to the devaluation and mistreatment of women, human trafficking and sex crimes against women. Violence works the same way. Boxing wasn’t enough so they took the gloves off, then they allowed kicking, kneeing people in the head, then elbows to the face, then they put a cage around it. The point is to knock the other guy unconscious while pay per view crowds cheer it on. Why not nunchucks? In Rome they’d gather in colosseums and bring out prisoners and entertain themselves by making them fight to the death. That wasn’t enough so they brought out the helpless and the hated and brought in the hungry lions. Crowds cheered.
I guess what Rep. Hickey is saying, among other things, is that teen-age boys who sneak a peek at the latest issue of Playboy are going to turn into pimps and violent criminals.
In addition, Rep. Hickey, the point of MMA is NOT to knock the other guy unconscious. It happens, just as getting knocked unconscious happens in an NFL or college football game when a linebacker beats the offensive tackle and hits an unsuspecting quarterback from behind and drives him into the ground.
If Daugaard and Hickey want so badly to protect their citizens, perhaps they ought to consider banning smoking cigarettes. The impact on cigarette smoking on health care costs is well-documented and has been for decades. According to the Centers for Disease Control, cigarette smoking adds $96 billion annually to health care costs.
I humbly ask, Gov. Daugaard, why don't you do a great thing for the health of the citizens of your state and ban cigarette smoking? It is undeniable that as a result, South Dakotans will live longer, healthier lives and the state's economy will benefit.
As for your efforts to save your citizens the horrors of MMA, then think about banning football, so no football players get concussions and wind up like so many NFL superstars. I would wager that far more South Dakotans get concussions from playing football than ever would from fighting in regulated MMA events. And, if they did get a concussion after fighting in a regulated event in your state, they'd be far better taken care of and much more likely to fully recover.
Unregulated MMA, is the danger here, Governor. It's not regulated MMA. Educate yourself and do something good for your constituents.