MMA in Massachusetts: Not Yet

By Jack Encarnacao Jul 8, 2008
Timing is everything, and when it comes to the sanctioning of mixed martial arts in Massachusetts, the timing wasn't right.

Lawmakers in the state emerged from the year's legislative session last week without forwarding a bill to the governor that, if signed, would regulate the sport in UFC President Dana White's old stomping grounds and open the door to UFC events. White told media after UFC 86 this weekend that he was eyeing a November debut for the UFC in Boston.

Matthew Moran, chief of staff for state Sen. James Timilty, said members of the legislature's conference committee simply did not have the time to vet the MMA legislation that Timilty had proposed and still meet its deadline to get the rest of the state budget in front of the governor.

The 13-page MMA bill was proposed in an unconventional way, as an amendment to the state budget, in an attempt to expedite its passage through legislative channels.

"I think word came down Monday night, Tuesday night that said we need to wrap this up and get a bill to the governor," Moran said. "I think we just lost out on the timing."

Moran said he doesn't think the outcome had anything to do with any legislative opposition to the sport.

"I doubt that was the issue," he said. "Everything we received as far as feedback was a desire to pursue this … there was a great desire to do it. Unfortunately, in the rush to the finish line, certain issues just had to be taken off the table."

The regulations could technically still be adopted by July 31, but Moran said there was virtually no possibility of that happening because of the amount of committee review required. The soonest another piece of legislation could be filed would be in December, meaning the sport can't be regulated in the state until the spring of 2009 at the earliest.

The hiccup comes after legislation to regulate the sport in New York did not sail through the state assembly as quickly as the UFC had hoped. White pledged earlier this year that a UFC event would be held in either Madison Square Garden or the TD Banknorth Garden in 2008.

The UFC hired the prominent lobbying firm Dewey Square Group to push the sport in Massachusetts. Timilty, who heads the state senate's public safety committee, originally proposed that the sport be regulated under a new state athletic commission; a second version placed it under the auspices of the existing state boxing commission. Currently, MMA promoters in Massachusetts police themselves, hiring their own referees and doctors.
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