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June 28, 2016

It's time to refresh MMA: We follow the changing tide in the MMA Sport from July to August 2016 leading up to the Assoc of Boxing Commissions annual conference

The annual conference of the Association of Boxing Commissions is fast approaching.  This year it's going to be on the Vegas Strip.  I've never been and I am pretty excited.  I've reviewed the agenda and I think we are in for some great changes to our sport as a whole thanks in large part to the efforts of the ABC's newly elected Executive board where one of my long time acquaintances, Mike Mazzulli, presides over the organization.  Mazzulli is joined by other determined commissioners from across the country who share his passion for combat sports and finding the right balance between entertaining events and fighter safety.  Their focus is clearly on fighter Safety though as we can see by the shear number of agenda items related to medical topics and rules evaluation.  In the area where fighter safety overlaps events perceived entertainment value there will be presentations on keeping the playing field as level as possible with increasing knowledge on PED use and Dehydration risks.  As if that weren't enough to greatly impact the fight scene we move through today there will be legal experts speaking to the membership about what types of litigation might arise from the increase in regulation of those same issues and other issues that have cropped up in the last decade as a result of widespread adoption of regulations on a state to state level.

Photo of ABC President Mike Mazzulli cageside at Bellator
Courtesy of Joe Leonard 2012.
Mike Mazzulli 2016 Bellator event
Courtesy of ABC Facebook page

The well rounded agenda is the culmination of many months of trialing various new regulation variations, additional regulations, removing regulations, and collecting data across the country and the world.  The entire executive body sought out the best and is bringing them together to update the sport and make it possible to remain the fastest growing sport in the world.  

President -Mike Mazzulli(Mohegan Tribe)
1st Vice President- Brian Dunn( Nebraska)
2nd Vice President - Mike Kostrzewa(Connecticut)
Treasurer- Lydia Robertson( Arkansas)
Secretary - Joe Walsh (Iowa)
Courtesy of ABC Facebook page

One of the many interesting presentations this year will be given by the MMA Rules and Regs Committee.  Kansas Athletic Commissioner, Sean Wheelock, sits at the head of this group of ten individuals who could possibly be the most knowledgable men in MMA at the moment.  The committee members are a mix of Pro Fighters, a group the most heavily used MMA refs over the last year, a physician, and two additional commissioners.  Joining Wheelock during the presentation this year will be  Randy Couture, Matt Hughes, John McCarthyJeremy Horn, referee Rob Hinds, referee Kevin MacDonald, ringside physician Dr. David Watson, Georgia Athletic and Entertainment Commission director Matt Woodruff and Brian Dunn, the head of the Nebraska Athletic Commission.
In a phone conversation with Ref Kevin MacDonald earlier this morning I learned that the committee would be finalizing there presentation today in a conference call this afternoon.  They'd been discussing the many trends, rules, and various challenges facing the sport and the athletes monthly since last July when the committee formed.  
The recommendations this group makes will be the update the sport needs in order to maintain its broad appeal.  We'll see a push for clear language regarding female attire in the cage, the removal of the rule prohibiting 12-6 elbows making them legal once again, a change to the the definition of a downed opponent that would make any fighter in a three point stance by definition a standing opponent, the removal of the 170lb weight class and the addition of four more classes (165lbs, 175lbs, 195lbs, and 225lbs), and one of my favorite issues the addition of language that would allow referees to warn and also to deduct points for leading with the fingers extended.  The language would create a new type of foul and require the referee to be proactive in his/her duties of fighter safety.  Up until now the language was not there and this meant that in reality if a fighter was warned and then lost a point for putting his fingers in a hazardous position around their opponents face and then lost the fight due to a judges decision they would have grounds to appeal the decision.  The new language states that a fighter will only be allowed to position his hands in an opponents face while standing if their fingers are pointed directly toward the ceiling or if the fingers are curled into a fist.  This was the main argument of Matt Mitrione recently during his appeal of the UFC loss against Travis Brown in Boston, MA.  The MSAC concluded that the loss would stand and that the appeal did not show that there was a foulable offense despite clear evidence to the contrary on film.  You can read my first hand account of those procedings and watch the hearing here.
As if there couldn't possibly be any more they could pack into this week just watch.  In my conversation with Mike Mazzulli earlier this week he let me in on a few surprise guests and a few discussions that will take place outside the event itself.  I plan on filming the event and bringing this information back to New England where I will share it with the fighters, the commissioners, promoters, physicians, and of course the fans.
I've taken the time to line up some interviews with our local experts over the course of July in an effort to give them a voice and to perhaps influence the outcome of the votes that will bring about the updates we should have.  My interviewees will mirror the types of folks that make up the current MMA rules and regs committee and quite possibly be some that already sit on that committee.
I hope you'll also join in the discussions since it is our sport.  The fighters first and foremost should be weighing in on anything a governing body might require them to manage regarding their physical being.  Weight cuts are a serious issue and all of us that have undergone them seem to just accept that they are the rule not the exception.  Hopefully the creation of additional weight classes will alter this mentality.  Hell it might make it possible for me to come out of a medically forced retirement and allow me to continue on as a journeyman amateur mixed martial artist.  
Thanks for your time in reading this.  I will work to make this series one of the most reliable sources of information you can find on the net today and for years to come.  Till next time, be well.

Joe Leonard after his KO of Chris Walker in 2013
About the author
Joe Leonard, is a relative new comer to the realm of combat sports.  As a youth he was encouraged to participate in team sports and martial arts.  He's an amateur mixed martial artist with a record of just 2 and 5.  Diagnosed with debilitating Crohn's Disease in 2009 he's had nearly 5 feet of intestines removed in three emergency surgical procedures in that time.  He began training MMA with Team Ravenous under Todd Selva and Jeremy Reipold in 2010 and has since grown into a team captian helping to bring the next generation of fighters into the growing world of caged combat and tournament submission grappling.   He also is one of the most active combat sports videographers in the Northeast.  He's filmed for nearly every current local promotion in ME, MA, RI, and the Tribal grounds of CT.  He is joined by Travis Sinclair and Jeremy Reipold here at where they strive to create a reputable and comprehensive website dedicated to the fighters and fans.  There mission is to provide you with reliable and useful information as well as get you as close to the cage as possible if you aren't able to actually be in one.