Michigan lawmakers may decide to regulate amateur mixed martial arts in the state, according to the Grand Rapids Press.

The state currently regulates professional MMA but doesn’t do the same for events featuring unpaid combatants.

Michigan, like many states, legalized professional MMA fights in 2008, setting regulations for safety and event licensing.

But a growing number of amateur events fly below the regulation radar. Held in barns and backyards, the amateur contests feature young fighters, who are unpaid, but motivated by aspirations of future fame and riches.

Some legislators and promoters say kids are being drawn into dangerous situations with the promise of hitting the big time, though no one tracks the total number of men and women participating.

“Someone is going to get killed unless we ensure some safety,” said Rep. Dave Agema, R-Grandville, sponsor of bipartisan legislation to regulate amateur MMA. “I am trying to get rid of the bad actors, who are making a lot of money off kids trying to work their way up to becoming a professional.”

It’s up for debate whether some of the concerns over the amateur events are being exaggerated. However, Michigan is far from alone in leaving amateur MMA unregulated.

According to the Association of Boxing Commissions, fifteen other states, in fact, provide no regulation for amateur fighting: Alabama, Alaska, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

I’ve attended several amateur events in Virginia, all of which were well-run and appeared to have the appropriate medical personnel in place, so I’m certainly not looking to vilify promoters in these states. However, it’s bothersome that, sans regulation, promoters of amateur Virginia events can choose to allow elbows. My personal opinion is that someone who isn’t getting paid to step into the cage shouldn’t have to deal with a maneuver best used for opening cuts.

As in every other business, some less than upstanding individuals will look to cut corners where they can. States should provide a minimum set of rules to prevent any fighter from being taken advantage of or subject to unnecessary injury, regardless of amateur or professional status. This oversight needs to be addressed; otherwise it will hold up the MMA education process.

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