What Has Been Hurting MMA?
Is It Slowly Dying Because Of Regulations?
As MMA Slows, More and More Doors For Kickboxing & Muay Thai Start To Open Wider And Wider.
The tide has turned and Kickboxing and Muay Thai events are starting to make a lot of noise across the USA. The country is now seeing top MMA Promoters wanting to add Kickboxing and or Muay Thai to their MMA events and some are outright switching from MMA to Kickboxing and Muay Thai. The reality is, Kickboxing and Muay Thai are making their way back after being crushed by MMA when UFC exploded the sport with their Spike TV program back in the mid 2000’s.
There is an obvious reason as to how and why this is happening across the USA. However, unless your in the sanctioning business, you may not see it. You see, the other reality is that nationwide, the sport of MMA has been drastically disappearing ever since a lot of State Athletic / Boxing Commissions choose to take over regulation of Amateur MMA from sanctioning bodies such as the ISCF, ISKA and others. Some of these decisions were justified when the states were dealing with some very bad sanctioning bodies, ones that shouldn’t even call themselves a sanctioning body. So yes, there were some TERRIBLE MMA Sanctioning bodies out there. Yet, instead of banning these bad MMA Sanctioning bodies from sanctioning Amateur MMA in their states, many State Commissions disciplined ALL Amateur MMA Sanctioning bodies by taking over all Amateur MMA event regulation and in the end, as we’re all seeing, have pretty much killed the sport of Amateur MMA due to general government red tape and more so, when you kill something at the grassroots level, the rest of the tree is sure to suffer as well, which we have all been seeing.
Those strong amateur roots that once supported the strong PRO Tree are dying and with it that big Pro tree is indeed feeling the effects. The whole sport declines like the following of dominos. The grass roots amateur events have been rapidly declining and now, we see 1/10th of the Amateur MMA events across the USA than just as little as 5 years ago. With less and less Amateur events to build fighters, the next to be effected are of course, the pro events who now have far fewer talent pools to choose from. As the order goes, now the sport slows and in the end, we have less and less high talented „Experienced” Amateur MMA fighters which of course, brings us less high talented „Experienced” PRO MMA fighters. Because of this we’re now seeing less Great Fights between Great Fighters. The fighters are not to blame, their not event promoters let along regulators of the sport. As their opportunities decline at the Amateur level, like all athletes, they know their clock is ticking so they are pretty much forced to make the move to the professional ranks, hoping it’s „Their Time„. However, when they make that jump, few are able to bring with them a well groomed and experienced amateur career because there were less and less opportunities to build their skills at the Amateur level. Without opportunities to compete and get experience, what else can they do? Their almost forced to make that jump, ready or not, again, that age clock is ticking…
So WHY the change?
The State Commissions claim they wanted to take over Amateur MMA for only one reason, „Fighter Safety.” Well, if they would have just weeded out the bad MMA sanctioning bodies that cut corners, didn’t require much-needed medical staff, trained officials, oversight of matchmaking, etc., etc, the Amateur portion of the sport would have actually helped grow the entire sport more. So let’s call it what it is, they did it for $$$ cause if it were true for „Fighter Safety” they would have taken over ALL Amateur fight sports, INCLUDING Amateur Boxing, which despite its Olympic relations tag, is seeing it’s most unethical times ever and most complaints ever with the ongoing problems with USA Boxing’s management. – For some insight to USA Boxing’s problems, click HERE.
Now, if anything, most State Commissions who made this decision within the last 5 years have put Amateur MMA fighters (And those who turn professional too quick without the needed experience) on a dangerous path they have never been on. We are now seeing more and more mismatched bouts and more injuries because a lot of these commissions just don’t have time to review an Amateur Fight card to assure the bout is well matched for fairness and safety. In the end, as many are claiming with more and more fighter injuries some Fight Sport Insurance companies will no longer insure fighter medical insurance on MMA events. That’s saying A LOT!
So HOW does this affect Kickboxing and Muay Thai? It’s pretty simple to see that a lot of State Commissions don’t have the manpower to oversee the Amateur fight sports in their state, but is there a better way of regulating the Amateur Fight Sports? Of course, there is. „Delegated Regulation with State Commission Oversight!„
Look at what the California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) has done at this level. to begin with, most all states (because it was an Olympic sport) delegated USA Boxing to oversee Amateur Boxing when each state commission was formed. However, with the other Amateur Full Contact fight sports (Kickboxing, Muay Thai & MMA) in California, the Commission went a step further. They didn’t just open up the state for any and all sanctioning bodies to sanction events there as a lot of other states had done. If they did, they would have made Amateur MMA, Kickboxing, Muay Thai, and even Boxing a wild, wild west shoot-out with a load of promoters making up their own sanctioning bodies for their own events which in turn, like the other bad sanctioning bodies around the country, cut corners on fighter safety, event oversight, officials training, promotional regulations, etc. etc. and in the end, you have a state that is just waiting for a disastrous occurrence to happen.
The California State Athletic Commission regulates close to 200 Professional fighting events a year. They put A LOT of time and work into EVERY event from matchmaking oversight, fighter medicals, financial approvals, training and assignment of event officials and the list goes on and on. If you work for a state commission, or a „Legit” sanctioning/regulatory body like the World MMA & Combat Sports Federation or the International Sport Combat Federation (ISCF MMA) you would know that when looking at the iceberg on top of the water, the vast majority of the work such an organization does is what one does not see under the water or as one might say, all the work behind closed doors… Work that MOST sanctioning bodies never bother to do. Most feel that just selling their letters is all they need to do. So how did California avoid becoming the „Wild-Wild West” shoot-out a lot of other states became? They went the extra mile, made the harder effort by doing their homework, and delegated all Amateur Fight Sports to other Sanctioning Bodies, but only ONE per fight sport.
Back in 2009, for Amateur MMA which had never been legal in California, the CSAC actually played a hand in training and teaching a new upstart sanctioning body how to sanction and regulate the full contact fight sport of MMA at the Amateur level. The CSAC provided them with forms and paperwork that were already being used by the CSAC and all that had to be done was a logo change. In the beginning, there were many who didn’t like what this newly formed Amateur sanctioning body was doing and didn’t want them regulating MMA. However, over the years, the organization that was founded in 2009, the California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization, Inc. (CAMO) dedicated its efforts as other good sanctioning bodies had done which was to help foster the growth of Amateur Mixed Martial Arts and to oversee the health, safety, and welfare of the athletes had gained the respect of its peers and today sanctions and regulates more Amateur MMA events than any other state in the USA.
A little over 5 years later the CSAC took the same approach with Amateur Kickboxing and Muay Thai. Doing great work at the pro level left their staff with less and less time to give to Amateur Kickboxing and Muay Thai, and the number of Amateur events showed it too. However the decline in the number of pro and amateur Kickboxing and Muay Thai events was not due to any fault of the CSAC. As MMA grew, many of the fighters, trainers and of course Promoters in California who were strong in Kickboxing and Muay Thai had slowly made the full transition to Amateur MMA and because of it, the state started seeing less and less Pro and Amateur Kickboxing and Muay Thai events in the State, as pretty much EVERY STATE in the USA did. So, on March 17th, 2014, the California State Athletic Commission officially delegated to the WMMAFC the exclusive authority to regulate Amateur Kickboxing (Full Contact High Kick), International Rules, Full and Modified Muay Thai Rules (Ages 8 and Up) in the State of California. For the 12 month period prior to the WMMAFC’s delegation, the CSAC regulated „11” Legal Amateur Kickboxing and Muay Thai events. We stress the word „Legal” because at the time, many events had turned underground and went unregulated which made them illegal with no medical staff, no ambulance, no insurance and mostly untrained officials. During the next 12 months and with the help of many passionate people in the sport the WMMAFC made a drastic change in those numbers. Beginning with making promoter licenses easier to attain, the WMMAFC helped grow the sport to „40” events the following year. The next year, the sport grew to „60” events. It was clear to everyone that the „Organization” of the sport with a one-stop website for promoters to see their events advertised and for trainers and fighters to find opportunities to compete in upcoming events was a win-win for everyone. (WMMAFC Page.)
Imagine if every state across the USA put such a plan into place…
EVERY Amateur fight sport in every state would experience dynamic growth and not to mention the economic impact such growth would bring to every state. Several states have limited the number of sanctioning bodies in their state and some have allowed only 1 Amateur Muay Thai sanctioning body to sanction and regulate Amateur Muay Thai in their state but has just never helped the sport grow.
The bottom line here is that you have to WANT to grow the sport for those in it, NOT just grow your sanctioning company or the number of bills in your wallet.
Until a sanctioning body takes this approach, they will never truly become an asset to the sport in which they claim to sanction.
So WHY are the other states not GROWING Muay Thai and Kickboxing now that there is a window of opportunity to grow the sport while Amateur MMA is declining? Well, the answer is the same as it has been year after year… „Persistence and hard work.” If more state commissions would require a delegated sanctioning body to do things like this, imagine the growth in the sport. Imagine the Economic Impact each state would have from the travel for these added events, hotel rooms, gas, airfare, food. Look, we get it. When a State agency is delegated to regulate something in the state they also need to make money doing so. Otherwise there may be a lot of taxpayers all upset with them for spending money but not helping with any economic impact. Well, here’s your answer… Why not follow the simple „Work Smarter, Not Harder” principle? Look at what Andy Foster (EO Of the CSAC) has done with his Commission Staff in California. It’s a win-win for everyone. but again, it takes Persistence and HARD WORK! You have to want to do it for those in the Sport or it’s just not going to happen.
If there are any State Commission members looking at doing something like California has done, take a moment to contact Andy Foster at the CSAC and ask him how it’s working out. If you like what you hear, do your research and find a sanctioning body best for your state, maybe the MMAF for Kickboxing and Muay Thai or the WMMAFC for MMA or maybe not, but do something so you can help Amateur Fight Sports in your State GROW. After all, that’s what progress is all about right? Be part of the positive, progress of growth, not the one others want to point a finger at and say, „That’s who’s responsible for our amateur fight sports dying in our State!” Be the leader you already are and help provide more opportunities in your state by helping Amateur Fight Sports grow. At the same time you will help drastically increase the economic impact for your State and in doing that, fingers will instead point at you and others will say, „That’s who’s responsible for doing something Great for our Sport and our State!„
„Be A Part Of Something GREAT!”