Tacoma, WA (April 4, 2012) - Washington State Governor Christine Gregoire has signed House Bill 2301, extending licensing and medical requirements for amateur mixed martial artists.
The sport has come a long way since Senator John McCain campaigned to have it outlawed in the 1990's. Today, amateur MMA is wildly popular, with gyms, fight cards and training programs throughout the nation.
Even with MMA's massive rise in popularity and McCain's failed attempt to ban it, dark clouds still surround the sport.
There are many grotesque stories about unlicensed fighters participating matches without qualified judges, officials or appropriate medical personnel on hand. These dangerous events, often known as "smokers", typically were promoted in suspicious locations. However, no formal preventative measures were in place.
"We'd received reports during the last few years about events being held in garages, parking lots, bars and nightclubs," said Susan Colard, Washington State's Administrator of Professional Athletics. "There were formal complaints about serious injuries in mismatches and people were frustrated that the Department of Licensing did not have the authority to stop these dangerous events."
To make matters worse, Bill 2301 initially failed to get out of the House Committee twice during the last few years. Thankfully, 98 percent of voters said yes this time around.
Like the professionals, every amateur MMA fighter in Washington State must be licensed, have annual physical examinations and all applicable blood tests. All fight cards will also be required to have a doctor and ambulance present when Bill 2301 goes into effect June 1, 2012.
"The Department of Licensing was working on drafting a bill supporting regulation of amateur mixed martial arts for the last five years," stated Colard. "The State of Washington is one of the first to bring forward this type of legislation and has been asked to share it at meetings with other commissions. We're very excited with the passing of this legislation and happy that there is now a safe way for athletes to obtain the amateur experience needed to become a professional martial artist."
MMA promoter Brian Halquist, who promotes the "CageSport" brand and is an outspoken advocate of fighters' safety, was heavily involved in getting the bill passed.
"We as an industry have been working on this legislation for five years," stated Halquist. "This was an issue that needed to be addressed and will ultimately make a safer environment for all MMA fighters. I owe a special thanks to Frank Wright, the CEO of Emerald Queen Casino, and everybody else who supported Bill 2301. This bill can literally save a life."
Halquist Productions' next MMA card is scheduled for Saturday, April 25 at the Emerald Queen Casino in Tacoma, WA.
For more information on the bill, go to http://apps.leg.wa.gov/billinfo/summary.aspx?year=2012&bill=2301 or http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2011-12/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/2301.pdf.