Ultimate fighting could come to Illinois

Regulation means state gets a cut of admission, medical personnel and trained referees must be on hand for events
2007-09-12T00:00:00Z Ultimate fighting could come to IllinoisMIKE RIOPELL
Lee News Service
nwitimes.com
September 12, 2007 12:00 am  • 

SPRINGFIELD | The state will soon begin regulating mixed martial arts, a move that means Ultimate Fighting Championship bouts could be held in Illinois.

Gov. Rod Blagojevich this week signed legislation that requires the state to regulate mixed martial arts, which has become known for its extreme fighting matches aired on TV.

The state previously banned different, so-called "tough-man" competitions where amateurs fought in bars.

Then, more organized fighting events could apply to the state and get a waiver if they could prove they had structured rules, said Sue Hofer, spokeswoman for the Department of Financial and Professional Regulation.

Despite that, Ultimate Fighting Championship wouldn't hold an event in Illinois until the sport was fully regulated by the state, said Marc Ratner, a vice president of the Las Vegas-based organization.

"We want to bring a show to Illinois," he said Tuesday.

Ratner said the new law means they can, and UFC is looking toward the Chicago area to host an event.

State regulation means the government will take a cut of the price of admission through taxes. It also means medical personnel and trained referees must be on hand for an event to be held.

Ratner said the fighting league wants to "run to regulation," not away from structured rules. Mixed martial arts have been criticized in the past for the bouts' brutality, and more rules have since been adopted and enforced.

State Rep. Shane Cultra, R-Onarga, was one of the lawmakers who voted against the proposal earlier this year.

"It just seemed brutal to me," he said.

According to the UFC Web site, fouls can include "biting," "hair pulling," "throat strikes," "kicking to the kidney" or even, for the more tame fighters, "timidity."

As it is now, the new state law goes into effect in June of next year. The state needs time to develop mixed martial arts rules similar to the ones that govern boxing matches, Hofer said.

Ratner said UFC is working to make the law take effect earlier.

The legislation is House Bill 1947.

n Mike Riopell can be reached at mike.riopell@lee.net or (217) 789-0865.

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