Markwayne Mullin, 38, is a retired MMA fighter, successful entrepreneur, and congressman (R), representing the 2nd District of Oklahoma. He tells John S. Nash exclusively for BE that he is planning to introduce legislation amending the Ali Act so that it also covers professional MMA, and even kickboxing.
The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, widely known as the Ali Act, is a federal law enacted in 2000 in response to widespread abuse of boxers by means of exploitation, rigged rankings, and rigged matches. Sen. John McCain offers a one page summary ?of the Ali Act here.
The way boxing works now, a sanctioning body has a title, and a list of the top contenders. Then promoters essentially bid against each other to promote that title shot. Unfortunately, boxing sanctioning bodies only get paid for title shots, so, naturally they make a lot of titles.
“It’s become a farce to recognize 74 different world champions when there are only 17 weight divisions,” explained boxing reporter Joaquin M. Henson? for PhilStar last year. “And that’s just covering the WBA, WBC, IBF and WBO. Additionally, there are four vacant thrones. Other organizations like the IBO and WBFcrown their own champions so the list is virtually endless.
“Governing bodies make money out of charging sanction fees for world title fights so the more, the wealthier. The WBA is the most unscrupulous player of all. It recognizes “super,” “undisputed,” “unified,” “regular” and “interim” world champions so that in the latest ratings, there are six super, three unified, one undisputed, 17 regular and 11 interim titleholders. Believe it or not, the WBA recognizes 38 world champions in 17 weight categories and therefore, charges sanction fees each time they fight.”
Many have suggested that the growth and popularity of MMA vs. the decline in boxing is due exactly because there is one champion in a limited number of weight divisions in MMA, rather than the alphabet soup that is boxing.
However, Rep. Mullin says proof that the Ali Act works can be seen in the purses.
“Look at our high end boxers and look at the revenue they can bring in and then look at our top tier athletes in MMA and it’s not even comparable,” he said.
Of course, boxing purses were large before the Ali Act, too, and are large overseas, where the Ali Act has no effect.
There are further arguments that the Ali Act has little effect even in the USA, but Mullin does not agree.
“It has worked,” Mullin contends. “It’s a piece of legislation that does work if its used and its been used a few times in court.”
Mullin conceded that there has been little Federal enforcement, but notes that it has been cited several times in civil cases brought by fighters against manager or promoters, which keeps the industry honest.
Mullin pointed to the Ali Act requirement that promoters disclose event income as a clear area of use in MMA, noting that promoters frequently tell fighters they are not making anything, and have fighters sell their own tickets.
Some areas of the The Ali Act are clearly not applicable, as when it refers to 4 to 12 rounds fights. Mullin understands that the language of the act has to be amended to apply to MMA, but has not yet determined what that amended language will be.
He is “looking for input on, even from fans,” he said.
“Lets say the Bellator champion and UFC champion are one and two in the rankings, they can have a title fight between each other. Maybe it’s for both belts, or for one belt or for a super belt.”
Mullin suggests that the rankings might come from the commissions.
In the end, writes Nash, Mullin thinks the UFC has to choose between one of two options – allow for the Ali Act or make it a league like the NBA or NFL, with collective bargaining.
In the end, in reality, amending the Ali Act will come down a simple test. Is MMA broken to the point that the Congress and the Senate are willing to change Federal law, making MMA more like boxing in its structure, in the face of what is sure to be a concerted lobbying effort against it?