Improving Mixed Martial Arts
Dakota Digest - 07/02/2012
By Marcus Brooks
Mixed Martial Arts can be a gory and somewhat brutal sport. It's a sport that's been banned completely in Webster and Watertown. Promoters of these events say MMA has received a less than favorable reputation because there isn't any oversight. They say a commission could regulate who can fight and when - especially if they're injured.
MMA is one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S. The full contact sport invites multiple forms of combat styles like boxing, Brazilian jiu jitsu, wrestling and others. Although MMA can be seen in the eyes of some as gruesome and dangerous, to fans, fighters, and trainers alike, it's seen as a competitive sport that brings out the best in an athlete.
But last month Dustin Jenson died after participating in a cage fight. It was an unregulated mixed martial arts event at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.
Jenson suffered a seizure following a triangle choke submission. It's reported after his match he watched a couple fights before the seizure took place. The bout was Jensen's fifth match. He'd only been competing for about a year.
Now some want the MMA events banned others say it's time to regulate the sport to avoid another tragedy.
Jason Ehresmann is a mixed martial artist and promoter for South Dakota Total Combat. He says through his experience with competing in and promoting events, he developed a passion for MMA. Ehresmann is a former soccer player-turned mixed martial artist. He says there's no other sport like it.
"I honestly fight for the love of this sport I mean I've taken some big fights - where else can two human beings can go in and test their heart their strength and their mind and walk out on an actual civil level understanding that it was a competition," Ehresmann said.
Ehresmann supports regulating the sport. He says having a commission to sanction events will make sure fighters are ready to compete. Without it - Ehresmann says situations occur that leave organizers guessing. Like when a fighter had an epileptic seizure after pounding energy drinks to prepare for a fight.
"So as he's going into a seizure the EMT's are asking him personally do you have seizure's, are you on drugs, are you on alcohol - he's telling us no as he's having a seizure as his family members are running up to the cage saying he's epileptic. So we can only base it off of what the fighters tell us but if we have a sanction and an athletic commission to come to the show they would force us to have both prefight and post-fight physicals to make sure they would go through all the questions, check heart rates stuff like that and it would be more thorough if there was a sanction and a commission in South Dakota," Ehresmann said.
Recently Ehresmann promoted an event in Mitchell. It's called Total Combat 18. The event was packed with a 17 bout fight card. As I'm seated cage side, viewing up close each punch, kick, or elbow that is thrown and finds its target on the face or body of the opponent, the chants of the crowd catch my attention.
Logan McPadden is the 21-year-old amateur welterweight champion for Total Combat. He says the sport has given him a chance to reach higher limits and show people what he can do.
"Out here you're showing yourself what you can do what you've done and I want to show people that I've actually become something and I'm working on something," McPadden said.
Total Combat promoter Jason Ehresmann says he does his best to run his events as professionally as possible but he welcomes assistance from state legislators.
One state law maker wants to make events heavily regulated not only to give the sport a better reputation but also to help protect fighters. South Dakota has a boxing commission which also would oversee MMA events but currently it has no members on the board.
In 2009 lawmakers passed a bill that allows a boxing commission to be appointed by the governor. The commission oversees the regulation of boxing and mixed martial arts events. Without the proper authority there's no guarantee of certification within fighters, referees, trainers, or judges. One of the duties of the commission is to enforce that. It's been three years and a board has not been appointed.
"It's all in the governor's hands and I want to be strong about that. He's got to appoint the commissioners we would tell him who to appoint if he'd accept it," Schrempp said.
State House Representative Dean Schrempp of Lantry (Lan-tree) sponsored the legislation three years ago. Schrempp is president of South Dakota Boxing and has 50 years of experience in the sport. He's attended two unregulated MMA events and says he refuses to go to another until the sport is sanctioned. Schrempp says he spoke with Governor Dennis Daugaard about the commission but was told the decision is up to the legislature.
"He says the legislature this year is going to have to appropriate some money to do it and I hate to wait that long people are getting killed over the deal and until we get something set up and July 1st is the sunset so we'll have to start all over again," Schrempp said.
Schrempp says there are many issues with unregulated events. But with Sanctioning he says - it will prevent bouts from having fighters who are not in the same weight division, it will supply doctors outside the cage, and even prevent intoxicated people from competing.
Schrempp says making a decision to advance the sport to a safer level is not complicated. He says he was informed - to start the commission - the legislature needs to raise money to sanction fights but the state law maker says he'll be on the commission for no charge.
In a written statement Governor Dennis Daugaard says he does not support Mixed Martial Arts as a sport and regulating it would only allow it to continue. He wrote that by creating a commission it would only condone the behavior and will lead to more injuries and deaths. Daugaard says there's no way of knowing what regulations a commission could put into place and if those rules could have saved the life of Dustin Jenson.
But regardless of the rules and regulations - fans are attracted to mixed martial arts. Raquel Leeper attended her first event in Mitchell. She confesses she fell in love with the sport and does not intend on remaining just a fan.
"It's on my bucket list and hopefully in the next 18 months I can get myself in shape and get in the ring myself," Leeper said.
Leeper isn't alone in her plans to become a Mixed Martial Artist. Many aspiring fighters want to take that step into the cage to feel a rush, hear the crowd chant their name, or maybe win a title.
The sport maybe violent but MMA promoters continue to put on events for fans across the state with or without sanctions.
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