After a few weeks of MMA fans pestering their local elected officials it appears that the sport will live to fight another day in Tennessee. Last week the Tennessee State Senate passed SB0212 that granted the Athletic Commission another year. Bills in Tennessee must go through the Senate and House of Representatives so it was also encouraging that the House is looking over HB0392 and will likely vote on it later this week to make it law.
Feb. 12th was previously the deadline for new legislation to be introduced. But now with both chambers of the State Legislature picking this up, it all but guarantees that the Tennessee Athletic Commission will get at least one more year.
For a quick summary of what has been going on check out the links below.
Senator Mike Bell, one of the Commission’s toughest critics sponsored SB0212 and filed it on Jan. 29th. On Wednesday the Senate voted to approve the bill.
On Feb. 4th the House kept the ball rolling when Rep Jeremy Faison introduced HB0392. Rep John Ragan, and Rep Joe Pitts as came onboard sponsors on Monday. Hopefully it will be voted on and passed by the end of the week. It appears that getting the bill through the House is a bipartisan effort as Faison and Ragan are Republicans and Pitts is a Democrat.
The UFC had tentatively penciled in a show for Nashville this year that would’ve been after the June 30th sunset date. With all the uncertainty surrounding the Commission, the venue that was going to host the event was uncomfortable with potentially holding an unsanctioned MMA show and no contracts have been signed. Zuffa has been working behind the scenes and still wants to come to the Music City but the date won’t be in finalized until HB0392 is passed and signed into law by the Governor.
While getting SB0212 and HB0392 through is considered a win for the MMA Community in Tennessee, it is ultimately a band-aid. Instead of sunsetting the Commission on June 30, 2015 it now pushes the sunset date back one year. The Athletic Commission still has to be able to sustain itself. If it continues to operate in the red it will eventually go away as lawmakers are always looking for ways to balance the budget.
For the next year it’s up to us to make a push to our local State Senator and House members to look at ways of increasing revenue for the Commission. One idea is bringing professional wrestling under the jurisdiction of the Tennessee Athletic Commission.
Over 60% of the Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Authority’s funds come from regulating pro wrestling events but in Tennessee those events go unregulated. In Kentucky promoters must be bonded and licensed in Kentucky. Each promoter pays a $300 fee and 5% of gross ticket sales. The promoter agrees to abide by the KBWA’s rules at all times. The KBWA is making money from each show but they are also present to keep things safe for the athletes. The KBWA has found shows running in barns that were in very unsafe environments for the wrestlers. The bottomline is that pro wrestling isn’t a cash grab. It is a way to bring in revenue but like MMA and boxing it keeps things on the up and up for a business that has a history of some very shady things.
A wrestler (and manager, referee, etc…) must also pay $20 for a license each year in Kentucky. the KBWA requires each wrestler to undergo an extensive physical and then send the results to the state before receiving their license. In addition to the physical there is a laundry list of things the Commonwealth looks out for to keep the show as safe as it can for each licensed wrestler.
The WWE is bringing their pay per view “Fast Lane” to Memphis later this month and then Monday Night RAW to Nashville the next night. 5% of their ticket sales would do wonders for the bottom line of the Tennessee Athletic Commission.
Pro wrestling regulation isn’t the only option for the Tennessee Athletic Commission. Washington, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and California require amateur fighters to get licenses. Tennessee does not. In Washington gyms are required to pay $500 a year for a license. There are options but it’s important to not just attach a fee to everything that deals with MMA, boxing, or wrestling just because Tennessee needs money. It needs to make sense and the state should be providing something worthwhile to whomever is paying for the license.
Tennessee has cleared a pretty big hurdle but there are still more rounds left to fight.