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Logic Taps Out: Politicians Seek To Ban MMA In Watertown, South Dakota

“30-27, Leonard Garcia

The latest political maneuverings straight from the Bob Reilly MMA Cock-Blocking For Dummies handbook are coming courtesy of the sleepy town of Watertown, South Dakota. Once again, a knee jerk reaction to emotional appeal has triumphed over common sense to help ban our sport from another city’s stage. While a serious, tragic event has shaped the decision in this case, the actions of Mayor Gary Williams and Watertown City Council are not just an affront to MMA, but to logic itself.

What we know is this: Late in the evening on March 13th, local MMA trainer Jerrin Stulken was involved in a street fight with Justin Jaton. Both men had been drinking in “uptown” Waterford. Jalton was severely injured in the fight, and this past Thursday he died as a result of those injuries. Stulken now faces charges of either second-degree murder or first-degree manslaughter. What we also know, but can’t at all understand, is that entire sport of Mixed Martial Arts has now been put on trial and found guilty by the city’s local government, which has banned promotions from staging events at the city’s event centers while it pursues full-scale prohibition. As you can imagine, we respectfully disagree with their decision.

First and foremost, it’s important to note that this altercation did not take place at an MMA event. In fact, outside of Stulken’s profession as an MMA instructor this incident has no connection to the sport. Bar fights like these, even those with fatal endings, are routinely waged across the nation by those who have never even watched a professional bout, much less trained for one. To put it simply, drunken idiots like to fight. While Stulken’s background may have helped him dictate the fight, it is not necessarily the cause of it. In fact, the 28 year old trainer has plead ‘not guilty’ citing self-defense. Is he guilty? Who knows, that’s for a jury to figure out; until then he’s presumed innocent by our legal system. What’s interesting here is that the entire MMA community is now being punished for a crime that someone loosely associated with the sport may or may not have committed. All without the courtesy of a trial.

Clearly there is no precedent for this action, nor will any similar actions be taken against other sports. The public perception of MMA as a “blood sport” where two men “fight to the death” is often too powerful for reason to overcome. It’s hard to imagine the sport of boxing being banned if a boxing trainer or even a pugilist himself broke the sixth commandment. If a race car driver got drunk at a bar and hopped behind the wheel, killing someone in an accident, would that end in the closing of race tracks? No, that would be ridiculous because getting drunk and injuring or killing people on the street is not the purpose of race car driving. Nor does it have anything to do with the sport of Mixed Martial Arts. The evil actions of one man no more condemn the sport than the heroic actions of another legitimize it. Politicians, say that you find it distasteful. Say that you worry that someone will get seriously hurt. Those are understandable takes on a sport that will never appeal to everyone. Do us all a favor, though, and don’t make yourself look foolish with wide sweeping legislation that has nothing to do with facts and everything to do with headlines.

Props to CP reader “yanktonirishred” for bringing this story to our attention.

- Chris Colemon

Cagepotato Comments

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RwilsonR- April 3, 2011 at 9:25 am
MMA doesn't kill people. People kill people.
KarmaAteMyCat- April 3, 2011 at 9:25 am
No I however have trained with many guys who have. South Dakota has a real following for the sport. I had considered fighting up there this summer or at Raging Wolf in Western NY which is where I am from. I think after my fight on Saturday I'll be taking a small break for a couple months I might even be competing at Naga on the 30th time will tell. I feel bad for south dakota.
yanktonirishred- April 3, 2011 at 8:32 am
Have you fought for Chris or for any of the South Dakota promotions?
As to questions on why what happens in South Dakota should matter in the large scope...this incident become cannon fodder for New York (SEE WHAT HAPPENS!?!?!) and other towns looking for sensationalist headlines to garner public support. Doesn't matter if this happens in Shitsplat Arkansas, Podunk South Dakota, Middle of Fucking Nowhere Kansas or Sin City herself...bad publicity hurts the sport...period.

KarmaAteMyCat- April 3, 2011 at 8:26 am

DMA - Dynamic Martial Arts is one of the premier gyms to train in South Dakota and yes I know the exact promotion you are speaking of. Well put sir well put.
yanktonirishred- April 3, 2011 at 6:37 am

ok actual link for the cage Inc instead of the one above.

yanktonirishred- April 3, 2011 at 6:35 am!/pages/The-Cage-Inc/125330590842235

link for The Cage Inc.

yanktonirishred- April 3, 2011 at 6:34 am

Chris Christiansen and "The Cage Inc" do shows in that area, specifically their battle at the border series at Dakota Magic Casino right on the North and South Dakota Border. Chris Busses fans up too so you don't have to worry about drinking or anything.
Chris brings in "name" fighters like Madsen, Bader and other past TUF alumni.
This card he has a WEC vet, Clint Godfrey, fighting a UFC vet, Ryan Roberts, for the featherweight title.

Find the Cage Inc on Facebook for more. Chris is trying so hard to get a governing board here in South Dakota and get full regulated fights. He's a Military Vet and just an all around great guy. Support his fights.

I continue to watch for the reactions on the fight story here in South Dakota. Sioux Falls passed their no fighting on city property law strictly for insurance reasons. Chris used to do shows at the Sioux Empire Fairgrounds and they were a huge success until the "human cock fighting" contingent got in the ear of a few city councillors and ended that. Now the fights are done at hotel convention centers when in Sioux Falls. Not the end of the world by any means.

I fully expect Watertown, a much smaller town with more direct access to city government, to do a wholesale ban on fighting inside city limits. This just opens up promotions to the Casino just outside of town, pushing money to the tribe instead of city coffers. Not that big of a deal, just bad decision making. I hope I am wrong but truly see the final decision going down like that.

KarmaAteMyCat- April 3, 2011 at 4:13 am
Oh man that was funny! Now that your funny though you gotta do like all good comedians and go OD on some form of upper/downer mixture. Thanks for trying but and I'm sure you've heard this one before but you just fell short of the goal.
slummy- April 3, 2011 at 12:31 am
you still payin rent with that free money karma?
KarmaAteMyCat- April 2, 2011 at 10:48 pm
Self delusions that's adorable. I'm a kiss ass and a nutthugger? Peace and self worth has eluded me? Wow you nailed it right on the head! MY GOD you really should consider changing that degree from flipping burgers and being a keyboard warrior to psychology because I think you have a real knack at it! Please try harder next time.
Squidjitsu- April 2, 2011 at 10:25 pm
Based on the article and quotes above, it doesn't sound like the issue is with mixed-martial arts per se (the sheriff's deputy quoted is pretty particular about how it could have happened to 'any two people downtown'), it sounds like the issue has a lot more to do with what happens AFTER events. It's not the sport itself - it's what comes with the sport in Watertown, South Dakota.
As an example, if there were a series of fights after rap concerts for a couple of months, and the last one led to someone's death, it might make sense to try to look at if there should be any more rap concerts. It's not that there's anything wrong with rap...but if allowing the concerts means that people are going to act stupid afterwards, maybe you're better off without them.
And although this isn't a 'city wide' ban, are there any other venues in a place like Watertown, South Dakota, that aren't public property? In a small town like that, the only large performance halls are probably public, not private enterprises (they have to be since there's no money in it).
Hopefully common sense prevails, since idiots will get drunk and fight any weekend, or if there is a correlation there, that they'll take a common sense approach (no alcohol sales during events, more security outside of events, etc.). Though as someone points out, I get the feeling that Watertown probably hosts, at most, a few local or regional shows a year.
fatbellyfrank- April 2, 2011 at 9:57 pm
@ Shortbus, serious question, why the haterade for karma? My opinion is he's a feisty little bastard, but a fucken good guy, same as posters ask me why i like drano, I think he's a fucken good guy,Karma might not be your cup of tea, but is he as bad as your comments suggest, IMO no.
PS have appreciated your posts this afternoon on this story, kickin back with some tasty and some frosty's on a Sunday arvo chilin out on my favoriye website
Peace and love muthafucka's
ShortBus- April 2, 2011 at 9:29 pm
KarmaAteMyCat says "I know I’m a polarizing douchebag get over it I don’t care."

@KarmaAteCate - You're right, you are a douchebag and I'm happy we can both agree on that. And by "we" I mean "the world". You're also a kiss ass ("kiss" not "kick") and a nut hugger, but you already know that too. As for you not caring what others think of you, that is a blatant self delusion and outright lie. You do care which is why you always reply to the Karma haters and/or retaliate. Keep telling yourself you don't care and perhaps eventually you'll get over your insecurities and self doubt and find that inner peace and self worth that has so eluded you.
ShortBus- April 2, 2011 at 9:15 pm
You illustrate my point perfectly by referring to the title which you intimate I missed. It was primarily the title that I took issue with. That and the opening paragraph. Nowhere in the original story does it indicate the local government is "seek"ing to ban MMA. Seeking implies an active attempt to make something so. My interpretation of the original story suggests the Mayor, et al. have received complaints from the public asking for the local government to take action. (Note: Do I agree that complaints to the local government are a logical first choice for the "concerned" public? No I do not. Do I agree with the Mayor's choice to halt MMA fights at the cities event cetner? No I do not. As I said, the tragedy has no relation to MMA or MMA events. Do I interpret this venue ban as being political maneuverings? No. Do I see the local government attempting to pacify the vocal majority? Yes. By the Mayor stating that a ban at city property will be CONSIDERED is akin to parent saying to a child "I'll think about it".

Moreover, your opening paragraph uses words and phrases intended to cause outrage and imply a greater injustice than has actually been served. Your reference to Bob Reilly, political maneuverings and finally your statement of "help ban out sport from another city's stage" is highly suggestive of the situation in New York, where the sport is banned entirely from the city, and as such are misleading. The situation in Watertown is by no means as injust as the situation in New York. So far only the city's event center is off limits. You also indicate that the decision has already been made in this case. This is only partially true. Yes, one venue is no longer available however the decision to implement a full-scale ban has yet to be decided so really the decision has NOT been made as you state.

And just to clarify, my sarcastic comment was not directed at you nor was my labeling of that comment as being sarcastic meant to imply that you personally need help recognizing sarcasm. No, that was meant for KarmaAteMyCat.
fatbellyfrank- April 2, 2011 at 9:03 pm
I guess the main issue here is degrees of reaction, a tragic event occurs, a source is found that can be blamed, and blamed with howling holier than thou indignation by good and righteous citizens, then the politicians kick in with their knee jerk reactions, and anyone who reasonably tries to defend the source is viewed as a freak. But what is the source, is it the sport of MMA? or the fact the fighting arts do attract some unsavoury characters? This guy sounds like he's a fucken dipshit who should get the legal book thrown at him, fuck me, If he is a trained MMA artist who trains others, why the fuck is he beating up drunks? continuing to beat on the guy after he's unconscious?
The focus here needs to be on educating politicians that you cannot blame an entire sport for an individual's actions, and educating and assisting them to sensibly address the knee jerk reactions of a community to an event like this.
irish55- April 2, 2011 at 8:02 pm
Wow, that makes me sad I live in a town about an hour away from Watertown and it would have been really neat to be able to have more MMA around here. The money it would generate for the city should be something that is welcomed not banned. People get in fights all the time just so happened to be that one trained in MMA so what...sad day.
KarmaAteMyCat- April 2, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I use it in my blogs it's not required for situations like this. I wish grammar nazi's like yourself would learn to troll better it's pretty sad.
GistoftheFist- April 2, 2011 at 6:22 pm
I wish your name wasn't turd furgeson.
Turd Furgeson- April 2, 2011 at 6:14 pm

I just wish you'd learn to use punctuation.
KarmaAteMyCat- April 2, 2011 at 4:40 pm
I think it's ridiculous that some of you think he over dramatized the situation? Incite the CP Nation? Good fuck yeah incite them. This is outrageous on both parts. The Practitioner and the Politicians it is not for a MAYOR to decide if a there should be sporting events within city limits. Sorry that doesn't fall under his set of powers. Please post as many references as you can humanly find to suggest otherwise because you will still be incorrect. CrushCo brought a very important subject up considering in Late April/May the New York assembly will be speaking about the Legalization of MMA. So for anyone to say he shouldn't dramatize and incite is completely retarded. Oh and if you don't like how he writes then skip the fucking post move on. Nobody fucking cares trolls. Sorry I know I'm a polarizing douchebag get over it I don't care.
HomeSchooled- April 2, 2011 at 4:28 pm
They should ban BJJ, Wrestling, Boxing and Muay Thai since he used those disciplines to kill Jaton, not MMA!
slummy- April 2, 2011 at 3:08 pm
Another reason why people think this sport is full of alcoholic retard barbarians (partly because its true). Represent the sport right or get the fuck out and don't set it back 5 steps. Who the fuck pummels a guy to death when he is already KOed?!?!?! A FUCKING MMA INSTRUCTOR!! This incident SHOULD be connected to MMA because I don't want alcoholic pieces of shit representing my favourite sport!
CrushCo- April 2, 2011 at 2:44 pm
@ShortBus: Very good point. Politicians should immediately act on complaints from some members of the community following a highly emotional tragedy, regardless of the logic behind that action.
ShortBus- April 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm
@Chris Coleman
Why would you over dramatize the situation or sensationalize it knowing full well that it would insite CP readers? This type of "reporting" does not help the MMA cause but hurts it.

I'd like to point out some things from the original story for my fellow CP readers.
Mayor Gary Williams opted Thursday to halt MMA fights at the city's events center and promised that the City Council would consider a full-scale ban.
//End Quote

Notice here that the Mayor did NOT issue a city wide ban but did "opt" to halt MMA fights at the city's events center. This doesn't mean that events can't be held elsewhere in the city. Also note that the original news story indicates that City Council would "consider" a full-scale ban. I don't think it's appropriate to demonize the cities leaders for responding to community pressure over the incident and subsequent tragedy by issuing a statement that they would "consider" a city wide ban.

The city officials did not react to the incident, rather they are reacting to the outcry from the community.

Later in the orig. story this statement is made:

The temporary rule change probably will be followed by a City Council debate on whether to ban mixed martial arts in the city or to impose strict limits, similar to those in place in Sioux Falls.
//End Quote

My money is on the Mayor and the City Council to go the route of imposing strict limits like Sioux Falls rather than drop the ban hammer.

Here's what the orig. story says about Sioux Falls regulations:
Mixed martial arts events are not permitted on city property in Sioux Falls.
//End Quote

How many MMA events are held on city property? I don't know the answer to this but what I do know is that it is much different than a city wide ban like New York has. Sioux Falls is doing some CYA with this regulation. Unfortunately this country abounds with sue happy douches and all this means is that Sioux Falls doesn't want to get sued.

The orig. story goes on to state:
Williams said the city has to consider public safety. "We have noticed an increase in assault charges on evenings we've had these fights," he said.
//End Quote

Really? That's a shocker. <-- This is called sarcasm. Look it up. I don't think anyone can deny the fact that MMA events are attended by a large percentage of tough-guy wannabe's. Serve them alcohol, show them some fights and they suddenly feel all bad ass. This is an unfortunate side effect of MMA events. This is a fact. More often than not it is MMA fans themselves that hurt the cause, not city or state officials and not the fighters or the sport.

Now, it's true that a bar fight turned tragic death should not automatically cause a desire to ban MMA. I don't argue that. The two are unrelated. However, in all fairness to the Mayor of Watertown and the City Council, they are simply responding to the MMA haters in the community.

They say that the squeaky wheel gets the grease and I think this might be an example of that. The orig. article quotes the Mayor as saying the phones have been ringing off the hook. How many of those calls are from MMA haters and how many from MMA supporters? I guarantee that the hater calls far outweigh the supporter calls.
CrushCo- April 2, 2011 at 2:20 pm
@Lockefan: Thanks for the heads up. All those years in Catholic school failed me.

@Clyde: I think it's silly to believe or expect one man taking down an insane attacker (who was attacking him at the time) to do anything for the MMA movement when there are much stronger arguments to be made (most important being this is a sport like any other). How many famous fighters have been arrested doing stupid shit? The truth is their actions shouldn't matter in the big picture because they are individuals. Athletes from all sports, just like their non-athlete kin, commit crimes, support charities, cheat on their wives, adopt children, etc. These are individual acts that may effect how the sport is perceived, but don't change the sport itself at all. This action makes it seem as if they do.