(Pictured: Wyoming’s remaining residents react to the great news.)
After becoming the 45th state (we’re looking at you, New York) to regulate mixed martial arts last Thursday, when current Governor Matt Mead signed House Bill 87 into law, Wyoming will become the first state to assemble a commission focused entirely on MMA. As we know, boxing and athletic commissions carry this responsibility in many of the states that have legalized MMA, and this is where Wyoming ran into trouble in the first place. In the past ten years, state lawmakers have attempted to reinstate the position of State Boxing Commissioner, who would then be placed in charge of MMA regulation, five separate times, but were met with overwhelming opposition from the state’s boxing industry.
The bill to legalize the sport was unanimously approved on Thursday by Wyoming State Senate and House of Representatives, and though MMA was never dubbed “illegal” in Wyoming, all fights held within the state until this point were not recognized on fighter’s records due to a lack of a sanctioning body to regulate the sport.
Now here’s where things get interesting: the committee will consist of three individuals appointed by Gov. Mead and will be funded by a five percent tax on gross receipts from all MMA events. This stipulation apparently has local promoters and fighters up in arms, fearing that the tax will discourage big name promotions like the UFC from visiting the state. Because, you know, Wyoming was next on Dana White’s agenda after he figured out this whole “international takeover” thing. Wyoming hosts an average of 20 mixed martial arts events a year, with the average crowd holding strong at around 500-700 attendees. Local fight promoter Stephen Alley told the Casper Star-Tribune that he believes this additional fee will crush the already depleted MMA scene, telling the publication in an interview that, “If they bring in a commission, most of the people that you see operating right now, they won’t be around.”
But according to UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner, we could be seeing a Fight Night type event at Wyoming in the near future, stating, “We’re not going to bring a major pay-per-view there, but we can certainly do a smaller event.” Oh, the optimism.
If you recall, the UFC hasn’t held an event in Wyoming since UFC 6, which saw Tank Abbott score his infamous rigor mortis KO over John Matua, the first ever Superfight Championship bout between Ken Shamrock and Dan Severn, and the allegedly fixed fight between Oleg Taktarov and Anthony Macais.
On a positive note, the addition of a MMA focused board will surely help improve things like fighter safety, and help rid Wyoming of so called “shady” promoters (now we’re looking at you, Alabama) that have damaged the name of the sport over the past few years. When the legislation takes effect on June 1st, the commission will quickly begin to collaborate with other athletic commissions such as the Colorado Boxing Commission and set up new rules and regulations to further the sport, starting with the current lack of HIV and other disease-related testing fighters currently do not have to undergo in order to compete. Also on the agenda will be the addressing the lack of insurance many of the smaller promotions neglect to provide to their fighters, a notion that Wyoming based MMA trainer Jerry Davis said would “make sure that some of these individuals in the past who were, for lack of a better term, shady wouldn’t be in this industry and giving it a bad name and causing harm to those individuals who are fighting.”
In another bit of great news, it appears that long time NY State Assemblyman and renowned ignoramus Bob Reilly will be stepping down from his position after serving four consecutive terms in office. We have long lamented about this man’s uneducated dissection of the sport here at CP, and couldn’t be happier to see him off to greener pastures ie. retirement and staying as far away from the sport of MMA as humanly possible. Reilly claims that he will be backing the candidacy of “long time friend” and civil servant Kevin Frazier, who will be launching a campaign in the forthcoming weeks. Fantastic.