New study suggests brain injury more prevalent in MMA than boxing

March 29, 2014

ESPN.com reports on a new study released in the American Journal of Sports Medicine which cites UFC records in concluding that MMA brain injury is more susceptible than that in boxing and other martial arts.

The new information is being released in time for the legislative session in Albany, New York where the UFC will once again try to legalize the sport of MMA in the state of New York.  The UFC has unsurprisingly indicated that the new research is “somewhat flawed,” according to chief operating officer, of the UFC, Lawrence Epstein.

The study, conducted by University of Toronto researchers looked at 844 UFC bouts from 2006 to 2012.  The conclusion showed that 13 percent of the fights ended in KOs and another 21 percent ended in TKOs (ref stoppage).  These TKOs occur “usually after a combatant was hit in the head five to 10 times in the last 10 seconds before the fight was stopped” according to the Brett Okamoto article.

Payout Perspective:

The UFC’s response cites the Cleveland Clinic study as its commitment to the safety of athletes.  Boxing and MMA organizations are joining together in that study in contributing to the ongoing medical study of early stage signs of brain injury.  The latest study from these Toronto researchers, based on how it’s described, appears to make a conclusion only on one source of research (records and video evidence).  There appears to be no other source for the study (e.g., interviews with fighters, evaluating medical literature, comparisons with boxing, etc.).  What it does is give opponents of MMA in New York evidence to point to in its arguments for the preventing the sport from legalization in the state.

Proposed amendment to Connecticut MMA law may hurt promoters

March 12, 2014

A proposed revision to the existing law legalizing mixed martial arts in the state of Connecticut may inhibit MMA events in the state according to promoters.

The current law, which was enacted in 2013, makes MMA promoters liable for health care costs associated with fighters’ long-term injuries.

The statement of purpose for the bill states: “To require promoters of boxing, sparring or mixed martial arts matches to continuously provide health insurance for the protection of boxers and competitors.”

The proposed language would read as follows with the deletions being in brackets and additions being underlined.

Any person, firm or corporation that employs, or contracts with, a person to be a boxer or competitor in a boxing, sparring or mixed martial arts match conducted pursuant to this chapter shall [be liable for any health care costs incurred by such competitor for the diagnosis, care and treatment of any injury, illness, disease or condition resulting from or caused] continuously provide insurance for the protection of the boxer or competitor in matches produced by such person, firm or corporation. Such insurance coverage shall provide for total reimbursement to the boxer or competitor for medical, dental, surgical and hospital care for all injuries sustained by such boxer’s or competitor’s participation in such match. [for the duration of such injury, illness, disease or condition.] The Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection shall adopt such regulations, in accordance with chapter 54, concerning the insurance required by the provisions of this section.

The proposed legislation would take effect on October 1, 2014.

CTPost.com identifies the big issue with the proposed language:

Promoters would be required to cover the cost of injuries into perpetuity, rather than simply for an incident and period of recovery as in most states and under the state’s boxing regulations.

Payout Perspective:

If you are a promoter of a small promotion that wants to hold events in the state, passage of this law would be debilitating.  Essentially, the added language to “continuously provide insurance” and “total reimbursement” that may result to a participant from a promoted event would be very costly.  Donald Williams, the state senator that introduced the amendment to the bill, accused MMA operators that balked at the amendment accusing them of “not wanting to be responsible for the full costs of injuries that they know will result in this sport.”

This is a tough measure and a similar bill is being proposed right now in Albany in an effort to legalize professional MMA in New York.  On one hand, you understand the intent of the amendment but on the other it would make it tough for a promotion to hold an event in the state.  Another issue, which does not seem to be discussed on the face of the bill is determining how much and how long care would go to an injured fighter.  This would also be a very tricky insurance issue as well.  We have also heard from promoters that indicate similar rules in other states are rarely followed.  This might be the reason for the addition of language.

MMA Payout will keep you posted.

California follows Nevada in banning TRT

March 6, 2014

MMA Junkie reports that the California State Athletic Commission has followed the Nevada State Athletic Commission in restricting the use of testosterone-replacement therapy (TRT).  At this time, it has instituted a complete ban on TRT.

Andy Foster, the California State Athletic Commission Executive Officer issued the following statement on California’s banning TRT.

The California State Athletic Commission fully supports the Nevada State Athletic Commission’s decision to eliminate Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUE) for Testosterone Replacement Therapy (TRT) in boxing and mixed martial arts. California is a strong supporter of anti-doping efforts. As part of California’s anti-doping efforts, the Commission recently began the rulemaking process to require meeting World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) standards as the only way to obtain a TUE for TRT. This standard is so high that it is an effective ban except under the most extreme circumstances. Until the rulemaking process is complete and the regulations are fully adopted, the Commission has a total ban on TRT. California remains committed to protecting the health and safety of athletes and having strict anti-doping standards is one of the ways this is accomplished.

Payout Perspective:

The move by California to negate therapeutic-use exemptions (TUE) for TRT is a sign that the dominos may seemingly fall when it comes to the use of TRT.  While TUEs for TRTs may still be obtained, the standards for receiving the exemption are so that most athletes currently using TRT would not meet WADA standards.  Certainly, the ESPN “Outside the Lines” story on TRT helped sway public opinion of the use in MMA.  We will see how many other commissions follow suit.

Vitor Belfort out of UFC 173 title bout after NSAC TRT ban

February 28, 2014

Earlier in the day, the Nevada State Athletic Commission banned therapeutic use exemptions for testosterone treatment therapy (TRT), just a few hours after that announcement was made, UFC teased a big announcement would be aired on FOX Sports Live tonight.

Fox Sports Live reported that Vitor Belfort would not be applying for a Nevada license for UFC 173, which is scheduled to take place on May 24th, due to the NSAC ruling to ban TRT.  His replacement was announced to be Lyoto Machida after his recent win against Gegard Mousasi, which means the new UFC 173 headliner will be Weidman vs Machida.

Belfort claimed that he would now make the efforts to get off of TRT and continue to fight in the UFC without the testosterone therapy since other athletic commissions in the US would most likely follow the NSAC’s ruling.

 

Payout Perspective:

Today’s NSAC ruling on banning TRT will have a ripple effect on MMA for years to come. We got some of that today already, as Belfort’s announcement today to pull out of his fight three months in advance will cement his status as the face of the TRT era in Mixed Martial Arts and in the UFC.  The UFC is already in a tough spot to find headliners this year due to injuries and the impromptu departures of Georges St. Pierre (infinite leave) and Anderson Silva (injury), two of their biggest stars.

The buzz for a Weidman vs Machida main event in Las Vegas will not have the same feel as previous major events during the Summer time. This news puts even more pressure on Ronda Rousey to keep things going in 2014 as a number of UFC champions will continue to be sidelined from injuries suffered last year. As far as PPV numbers go so far in 2014, UFC 169 was estimated by Dave Meltzer to be in the low 200,000′s while UFC 170: Rousey vs McMann figures to do somewhere on the lower to mid end of 300,000 buys.  Factoring in today’s news of Belfort pulling out of UFC 173, it looks like it will be a tough first half of the year for UFC PPV sales.

NSAC Bans TRT, UFC Issues Statement

February 27, 2014

Earlier today, the Nevada State Athletic Commission motioned to ban the practice of issuing therapeutic use exemptions (TUEs) for the often questioned testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) in the state, which would impact many notable fighters in the UFC.

The UFC supported the decision and issued the following statement:

“The Ultimate Fighting Championship fully supports the decision made today by the Nevada State Athletic Commission regarding the immediate termination of therapeutic use exemptions (TUE) for testosterone replacement therapy (TRT). We believe our athletes should compete based on their natural abilities and on an even playing field. We also intend to honor this ruling in international markets where, due to a lack of governing bodies, the UFC oversees regulatory efforts for our live events. We encourage all athletic commissions to adopt this ruling.”

Earlier in the week, MMA and athletic commissions came under fire after ESPN issued an eye-opening report of  the number of TRT users in MMA, most notably, UFC fighter Vitor Belfort. Belfort is currently scheduled to challenge the current middle-weight champion, Chris Weidman, at UFC 173 in May. What’s important about that event is that it is currently scheduled to take place in Las Vegas, where TRT is now not allowed.

Belfort is not alone in requesting and being granted TRT exceptions in Nevada. Other notable UFC fighters that have receiced TUEs for TRT include Dan Henderson (who fights in Brazil in less than a month and was planning on receiving a TRT exception), Shane Roller, Todd Duffee, Chael Sonnen (fights in Brazil in the Summer), Frank Mir and Forrest Griffin.

 

Payout Perspective:

It was a good day today to establish some credibility in MMA and the athletic commissions regarding performance enhancing drugs and cheaters in the sport.  The ban of TRT exceptions was a move that was long-awaited by many fans and that had become a heated debate due to prominent UFC fighters fighting outside of the USA who were previously revealed as TRT users.  The notion of a TUE for TRT has always been labeled as “legal cheating” by everyone in the sport, but the UFC never banned the treatment from competition due to being regulated by NSAC’s who allowed it.

This is a big first step, though definitely not the last.  Obviously more needs to be done on this front, including enhancing the advanced testing and the out of competition testing performed by certain commissions.  The issue here becomes getting enough funding to support such plans.  Hopefully in the near future, a solution can be found to solve most of MMA’s problems, but at least for now, we have removed what had become a hot trend for fighters to “legally cheat”.  It will be interesting to see if a fighter will challenge such a bold ruling in court, but at least for now we can breathe a little easier on what appeared to be a TRT epidemic in MMA.

Kizer steps down from NSAC

January 13, 2014

Keith Kizer is stepping down as the Executive Director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission according to The USA Today.  Kizer resigned Friday night with his last day being January 27th.

Kizer will return to state attorney general’s office where he was prior to taking the top job at the NSAC.  The article paints a positive administration for Kizer citing improvement in the health and safety of fighters in boxing and MMA in the state.

However, Kizer has been criticized for poor judging.  The article Timothy Bradley-Manny Pacquiao fight as one where most in attendance believed Pacquiao was the decisive victor yet Bradley won the decision.  Recently, Dana White went on a tirade in the post-fight press conference for UFC167 when GSP was declared the winner in a fight many believed Johny Hendricks dominated.

Payout Perspective:

With Kizer stepping down, we will see who will take over.  The person taking charge will most likely have working relationships with the UFC, Top Rank and Golden Boy.  The issues of drug testing and judging will be the two key things that Kizer’s replacement must address when taking over.

New study reveals $68 million economic impact with MMA in New York

November 21, 2013

Newsday reports on a new study provided by the UFC on Thursday which reveals that the legalization of MMA in New York State would result in a $68 million economic impact within the state.

The new findings from a study commissioned by the UFC reveal that the state’s potential economic benefit is 3 times the amount than that of a similar study in 2011.  In that study, it concluded an economic impact of $23 million.  The new study’s economic impact includes an anticipated 5 UFC events in the state and factors in events from Bellator, World Series of Fighting and Ring of Combat.  In addition, the study indicates that “statewide expansion of UFC Gyms would generate an additional $67 million in spending per year by 2017.”  This would boost the economic impact to $135 million.

Specifically, the study reveals that two UFC events in New York city would generate $16 million in economic activity.  The study also estimates $12.2 million in ticket sales per event which would be a record in the U.S.  Three UFC events per year in cities such as Buffalo, Syracuse and Albany would produce $18 million in those areas.

(H/t: Adam Martin)

Payout Perspective:

Will persistence ever pay off for the UFC in New York?  The latest study, which the UFC paid for, indicates that the events would give the state an economic influx from its events as well as business for the hospitality industry.  What has changed since the 2011 study is that the UFC is holding more live events and factors this into the new study.  Now an anchor on Fox Sports 1, it has the opportunity to hold a couple big events in New York City and three Fight Nights in upstate New York.  Also, there are other companies out there that would likely take advantage of the legalization of MMA in New York (i.e. Bellator, WSOF).  Will this new study persuade any New York legislator that cares to listen?

MMA still not legal in France

July 22, 2013

ESPN UK reports that the French Sports Ministry will continue its ban on mixed martial arts.  Despite lobbying efforts by Zuffa which had identified the country as a “massive opportunity” the country has decided to maintain its ban.

Showing that lobbying efforts have not shaped or change perceptions of MMA, the president of the Women’s Committee for Federation Francaise du Sport d’Enterprise stated, “I was appalled to find out how UFC was lobbying in France, especially when [told] how UFC has tolerated derogatory statements and attitudes against women. We cannot allow such an organisation to destroy all the work we have done to promote equality through French sports.”

Payout Perspective:

The French ban on MMA represents two things. First, it shows that MMA continues to hold a negative perception by many not informed about the sport.  Secondly, Zuffa lobbying has been ineffective in its attempts to persuade the “influencers” or other governmental groups to legalize MMA.  Although many in North America may not be concerned with the French ban, it does affect its plan for the globalization of the UFC brand.  It also is a sign that it must either rethink its lobbying strategy.

 

No Vote for MMA in New York

June 19, 2013

The New York State Assembly will not vote on a bill to legalize professional MMA in the state.  With the latest loss, Zuffa will have to wait another year to lobby Albany once again.

Newsday reports that after a meeting with the Democratic conference on Tuesday night, it was decided not to be put to a vote.  Although the MMA bill had 64 sponsors attached to it, a groundswell of opposition probably led to another year without a vote.  However, 35 Democrats voiced opposition to the bill which was due in part to a sexual discrimination claim  which was not handled properly by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.  MMA Fighting reports Silver stating that over 40 Democrats opposed the bill.  A simple majority of the 150 members of the Assembly was needed for passage.  While there are 104 Democratic seats in the Assembly, the block of opposition did in the MMA bill this year.

Of course, Zuffa blames the Culinary Union of Las Vegas for the failure of the bill yet again.

Payout Perspective:

Whether it was the lobbying power of the Culinary Union or the sexual scandal which denied Zuffa another shot at New York, its becoming clear that Zuffa must reassess its strategy if it would ever have an event in New York.  If you were wondering about Zuffa’s lawsuit against the state, the Court has yet to rule on New York’s Motion to Dismiss Zuffa’s First Amended Complaint.  Even if the Court denies the Motion, any legal battle would continue on through 2013 and thus seeking resolution through the courtroom will not happen this year.

UFC trying to avoid FS1 1 licensing issue

June 18, 2013

The UFC is attempting to dodge a legal nightmare as there is a possibility of having the debut card on the new Fox Sports 1 1 from being displaced from its Boston location.  A state legal requirement that fighters must have a social security card may derail the August 17th event.

A state law requiring all fighters licensed in Massachusetts must have a social security number according to The Boston Herald which first reported the issue. It was a requirement of the Massachusetts Department of Safety since it began regulating MMA in 2010.  Yet, it apparently was not enforced when the UFC held an event in Boston in 2010.

The UFC’s Marc Ratner told MMA Fighting that Massachusetts is the only state that requires a social security number of its fighters.

All concern for the event was seemingly put to bed as the UFC issued a press release promoting the show at the TD Center on Tuesday morning.  But, another release posted Tuesday night stated that it expects a “positive outcome.”

The UFC will still need to clear some licensing issues as it must apply for social security numbers for fighters that are in need of visas to fight in the US.  You must have a visa for 10 days before receiving a social security number. According to this document from Social Security, there are two ways to apply for a SS#.  The first is to apply with your visa application in your home country.  If you did not apply for a SS# on your visa application you must be in the United States 10 days before applying for a social security card.

According to the licensing requirements under the Massachusetts State Athletic Commission, section 6.01(9) states: “…all applicants for licensure shall provide their social security number on the application.”

Payout Perspective:

This certainly could be a PR debacle if the UFC cannot get its fighters social security numbers.  However, it looks as though the UFC is working toward getting the appropriate paperwork finished in order to obtain the social security numbers.  In this instance, the fact it had held an event in Boston previously without any enforcement of the social security number requirement may negate some heat off of this issue.  Yet, it had to be someone’s job to ensure that all non-citizens would be able to compete on the card.  This would mean making sure that it was in compliance with state rules.

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