- Title: Fighter Randy Couture pushes Congress for increased MMA oversight
- Date: 9th December 2016
- Summary: WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES (DECEMBER 8, 2016) (UNRESTRICTED POOL) (SOUNDBITE)(English) OKLAHOMA CONGRESS REPRESENTATIVE MARK WAYNE MULLIN SAYING: "This informational hearing is vital to educate the members of this committee and the public on the history, current status and future of MMA." (SOUNDBITE)(English) ILLINOIS CONGRESS REPRESENTATIVE JANE SCHAKOWSKY SAYING: "You don't have to be an MMA fan to recognize the greater need for negotiating power and stronger protections for MMA fighters. Our colleague Congressman Mullen, used to be an MMA fighter. I chatted with him about his sport and yesterday I met with MMA fighters in my office. The lack of leverage that they have in their contract negotiations is quite frankly quite shocking and that comes through when you look at the differences in pay and benefits between MMA and other sports." (SOUNDBITE)(Englsh) MMA FIGHTER RANDY COUTURE SAYING: "Well there's definitely a take it or leave it attitude that comes from the promoters and a perfect example of that is the Madison Square Garden promotion in New York, and the number one fighter and most popular right now is Conor McGregor."
- Embargoed: 24th December 2016 00:50
- Keywords: Randy Couture Conor McGregor chronic traumatic encephalopathy CTE
- Location: WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES AND VARIOUS
- City: WASHINGTON, DC, UNITED STATES AND VARIOUS
- Country: USA
- Reuters ID: LVA0035C10667
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Former UFC fighter Randy Couture testified on Capitol Hill on Thursday (December 8) in support of increased protections for Mixed Martial Arts fighters in the United States.
Congress is considering increased oversight over the multimillion dollar industry currently dominated by the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Couture and representatives from the UFC appeared before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade as they gathered information to determine if the current regulations governing boxing should be extended to mixed martial arts competitions. Current laws for boxing prohibit oppressive contracts, requires an independent ranking system, and requires promoters to report their full amount of revenue.
"There's definitely a take it or leave it attitude that comes from the promoters and a perfect example of that is the Madison Square Garden promotion in New York and the number one fighter and most popular right now on that card was Conor McGregor," Couture told lawmakers. Couture went on to recount the recent dispute between McGregor and the UFC over his desire to move into boxing.
"He also is interested in pursuing a match with Floyd Mayweather in boxing. Because that went against the grain with the Ultimate Fighting Championship they stripped him of his belt for 145 pounds even though he had not been defeated in that weight class and hadn't actually competed in that weight class in a little while because he was trying to do something historic in winning two championship belts at the same time. He was stripped of that title and dropped out of the top ten rankings of that weight class even though he had not been defeated or competed there. In essence they used their titles and their ranking to manipulate the fighters to toe the line. To do the things that they want him to do," Couture explained.
UFC athletes are also forced to sign long-term, exclusive contracts which, for example, limit their ability for sponsorship. The UFC has signed an exclusive sponsorship deal with Reebok which limits their fighters from signing clothing/shoe deals with other companies.
The hearing also heard testimony about fighter safety and the long term risks of repeated blows to the head.
Jeff Novitzky, UFC Vice President, outlined the efforts of his organization to address fighter's health.
"Earlier this year, the UFC made a 5 year, $1 million commitment to the Professional Fighters Brain Health Study that is being conducted through the Cleveland Clinic. This commitment makes UFC the largest combat sports contributor to the study. We currently have 88 current and former UFC athletes enrolled in the study. It's done over longer periods of time and develop ways to improve safety in combat sports, along with other professional athletes exposed to repetitive head trauma," Novitzky testified.
Countering Novitzky, Dr. Anne Mckee of the Boston University Alzheimer's Disease Center, said much more research needs to be done to understand the dangers of chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), the degenerative disease found in people who suffer from repeated blows to the head.
"CTE is a big problem for contact sports, and what we know today is very likely only the tip of the iceberg. While we recognize the importance of contact sports to an athlete's physical and psychological well being, CTE is a known and preventable consequence. There is great urgency for more funding for research on CTE and the risks for CTE associated with sports like MMA and military service," Mckee said.
Congress is set to consider the increased oversight protections for MMA fighters as early as January.
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