The Corner

The Feds Want to Go into the Matchmaking Business

Forty Million MMA Fans May See Mixed Marital Arts Federalized

Mixed martial arts (MMA) is a great American success story. Almost unknown 15 years ago, it is now the fastest growing sport in America. Fans love seeing a full-contact combat sport in which fighters use martial arts techniques, but no weapons.  MMA has grown to nearly rival tennis or golf in the value of its sponsorships and now has an audience of some 40 million people, mostly on pay-per-view.

But like all successful startups it has now attracted the unwanted attention of Washington D.C., where some in Congress would like to regulate the sport and impose federal control over it. A hearing on the subject will be held on the issue tomorrow morning in the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

Markwayne Mullin, who was once a part-time MMA fighter, is now a Republican member of the House from Oklahoma. He has taken upon himself to sponsor legislation he says will combat widespread abuse of MMA fighters, some of whom he says are victims of exploitation and matches that have rigged outcomes.

But his cure is likely to be worse than the ills he purports to fight. The bill would enlist government bureaucrats to rank fighters and conduct the matchmaking that is now done by the private sector.

Lawrence Epstein is the Chief Operating Officer of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the promoting organization that now dominates MMA. He says “we don’t oppose thoughtful federal regulation if it’s going to improve the health and safety of MMA athletes and strengthen the sport. The Mullin bill does neither.”  Right now UFC dominates the field with 523 fighters under its umbrella along with Viacom-owned Bellator, which has about 120 fighters.  Both companies point out they are currently regulated by state boxing commissions on health and safety issues.

Most of Rep. Mullin’s conservative colleagues in Congress and outside conservative groups believe he is seeking a federal solution for what should remain a state and industry concern.  “Regulators throughout the U.S. have adopted unified rues of MMA which ensures fair fights, as well as predictable, transparent and fair regulatory treatment,”  reads a letter sent to members of Congress earlier this year by the heads of 20 major conservative groups, including  Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute and Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union. 

Tomorrow’s hearing is largely a vanity project for its legislative promoters because the legislation has no chance of being adopted by Congress before it closes its business later this month.  As for the next Congress, the odds of its becoming law look bleak. Dana White, the president of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, is an avid supporter of Donald Trump and was even invited to speak by The Donald to the Republican convention in Cleveland this year.

Given Donald Trump’s vow to kill or scale back burdensome regulations it would be passing strange for him to sign a bill making the federal government a partner in deciding how MMA matches are organized. This is one set of fights the federal government should stay out of. The Mullin bill looks like it’s headed for a smackdown. 

Most Popular


Trump’s Disgraceful Press Conference in Helsinki

On Monday, President Trump gave a deeply disgraceful press conference with Russian dictator Vladimir Putin. The presser began with Trump announcing that although the Russia–U.S. relationship has “never been worse than it is now,” all of that “changed as of about four hours ago.” It was downhill from ... Read More

Questions for Al Franken

1)Al, as you were posting on social media a list of proposed questions for Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, did it occur to you that your opinion on the matter is no more relevant than Harvey Weinstein’s? 2) Al, is it appropriate for a disgraced former U.S. senator to use the Twitter cognomen “U.S. ... Read More

Democrats Are Dumping Moderates

The activist base of the Democratic party is lurching left fast enough that everyone should pay attention. Activists matter because their turnout in low-turnout primaries and caucuses almost propelled leftist Bernie Sanders to victory over Hillary Clinton in 2016. Last month, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez unseated New ... Read More
National Security & Defense

Trump’s Helsinki Discord

Donald Trump is not, and never will be, the Moscow correspondent for The Nation magazine, and he shouldn’t sound like it. The left-wing publication is prone to extend sympathetic understanding to adversaries of the United States and find some reason, any reason, to blame ourselves for their external ... Read More