When mixed martial arts fighters ascend to the professional ranks, they aspire to join organizations like the UFC or Bellator. Before they reach that point, though, they’re part of an amateur circuit which can often be dangerous. Boxing, with organizations like USA Boxing to oversee amateur fights, sets a far better example for new fighters. Here are nine reasons why amateur MMA enthusiasts should take notice of this example, for the good of fighters and fans alike.
- Greater Organization – Right now, there is no single regulatory entity to oversee amateur mixed martial arts fights. This means that some events, as well as some amateur organizations, can be remarkably disorganized. With no one to report to and limited oversight, it’s often difficult for amateur fighters to safely navigate their way to a professional career. Of course at the UMMAF we believe that we can and will eventually provide this oversight.
- Increased Safety Measures – Under the revised USA Boxing rules in 2015, elite-level men in the sport are not required to wear headgear. The rule doesn’t apply to female fighters at the elite level, who must still wear protective headgear to compete. While these seasoned fighters are able to start testing the waters without headgear when they’ve reached a certain level, this isn’t the case in mixed martial arts. Amateur MMA fighters rarely wear headgear, may not be required to undergo a pre-fight examination or get post-fight medical attention. The safety rules in many cases are left up to organizations hosting their own events, and fighter safety often suffers.
- Better Regulation – Many of the problems rampant in amateur MMA circles can be attributed to a simple lack of regulation and the absence of a designated regulatory body over all amateur fights. USA Boxing, on the other hand, does provide important regulation, lending legitimacy and important protection to fighters across the country.
- Preparing Fighters for Professional Careers – An amateur mixed martial arts fighter may be competing for the opportunity to become a professional, but the lack of oversight in comparison to amateur boxing circles can leave them ill prepared for such a transition.
- Protecting Fighters’ Health – In states where amateur MMA fights are legal but state law prohibits professional bouts, like New York, there are a host of issues which can and often do threaten fighters’ health. In these completely unregulated states, fighters have been known to compete after being diagnosed with potentially lethal, blood-borne diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C. Physicals are neither required nor particularly encouraged. With a national regulatory system in place, the health of fighters in these states would be better protected.
- Facilitating Athletic Commission Support – New York isn’t the only state where legal loopholes make it impossible for a state athletic commission to oversee amateur fights, and the lack of a regulatory body makes it even more difficult to work with lawmakers to make important changes. The presence of one recognized entity could potentially facilitate state commission involvement, preventing any number of issues for amateur fighters and promotions.
- Enforcing Bans and Suspensions – The state of amateur MMA today makes it relatively easy for fighters to be banned or suspended in one area where a local agency oversees amateur mixed martial arts to continue fighting in violation in other areas. This wouldn’t be the case if amateur MMA were regulated in a manner similar to amateur boxing.
- Accurate Fight Results Reporting – In the absence of a regulatory body, it’s easy for the results of unsanctioned and unregulated bouts to be misreported, even if there were an agency to which to report those results. When misrepresenting a fighters’ record is so easy in some areas, both the sport and the brand of an amateur fighter can suffer.
- Protecting and Nurturing Amateur Fighters’ Brands – Just as there’s no governing agency overseeing amateur MMA fights to protect fighters’ health, there’s also no real way of safeguarding the brand they’re trying to build. Misrepresentation, poor management and any number of misunderstandings can damage a fighter’s brand before they ever make it out of the smaller amateur circuit, potentially ruining a promising career before it starts.
While most fans of professional mixed martial arts may not follow amateur fights, it’s important for all MMA enthusiasts to recognize how integral amateur circuits are to the sport as a whole. After all, even the world’s biggest stars were once unknown amateurs; doesn’t the next Jon Jones or the next Anderson Silva deserve to emerge from their amateur career unscathed (imagine how many great fighters out there will never get their big break)?