Last Minute Changes Potentially Overhaul Amateur VA MMA

by Felix Falcon

It has been a very busy week for House Bill 1228 which was introduced to the Virginia General Assembly in mid-January. It had gone through a couple of changes since we last reported on it, but not in very large strides. The bill passed the House on February 16th and had largely passed the Senate on March 3rd.  Then it was reconsidered, amended and taken to the House again for consideration. On March 7th, the House rejected the amended bill and the Senate requested a conference committee. On March 10th, it looks like with representatives of both the House and Senate, a huge overhaul of the bill was adopted and passed.

The new proposal not only provides some of the initially requested amendments, it puts in very specific and significant changes that will change how amateur MMA fighters will compete in the State.

At first glance here are some of the big changes for amateur MMA:

  • Amateur MMA fighters will have to be at least 18 years of age.

  • No amateur MMA fighter can compete in the 60 days immediately after being KO’ed or 30 days after being TKO’ed.

  • Fighters will still need to provide negative test results, dated within 180 days preceding the date of an event, for HIV; hepatitis B and hepatitis C.

  • Fighters must provide written certification from a licensed physician, dated within 180 days preceding the date of the event, attesting to the contestant's good physical health and absence of any preexisting conditions or observed abnormalities that would prevent participation in the event.

  • Approved Sanctioning Organizations, insofar as practicable, shall observe and apply the unified rules for amateur mixed martial arts adopted by the Association of Boxing Commissions. (shin guards, no elbows or knees to the head, no neck cranks, no heel hooks or toe holds, etc.)

  • Sanctioning Organizations must verify that each amateur martial artist scheduled to compete is covered by health insurance.

The initially requested changes for Sanctioning Organizations seeking approval were slightly altered to the following:

“A sanctioning organization seeking approval from the Director shall provide documented evidence (i) of operation as a business for at least the immediately preceding three years; (ii) of at least five years of experience as a sanctioning organization representing at least two different promotions during such five-year period or that the principal officers have at least eight years of experience working as a referee or head official for an established sanctioning organization without adverse financial or disciplinary action in any jurisdiction; (iii) indicating that none of its officers, employees, or agents, directly or indirectly, has any pecuniary interest in, or holds any position with, any business associated with a promoter or otherwise operates for the sole benefit of a single promoter; and (iv) of assurance that events will be conducted in a fair and impartial manner with avoidance of any impropriety or appearance of impropriety.”

The oddest part of these new updates, which might affect professional fighters as well as amateurs, is the removal of the definition of “Licence” and “Licensee,” and in turn adding a definition for “Regulant” as any person required by this chapter to obtain a prior authorization from the Department. Does this mean that DPOR will no longer provide licenses in any capacity, including pro fighters, rather just provide authorization of them as participants?

We will continue to watch these developments as well as try to get clarification from DPOR on how all these changes will be implemented if they are ultimately signed into law.