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Hey Gov, Let Us Have Tito Ortiz!

With the Illinois General Assembly and Gov. Rod Blagojevich still engaged in a pissing contest over the proposed state budget, there is something the Gov could do to make the gut-wrenching wait more bearable: he could put his signature on HB 1947. This proposal would allow mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts to be held in Illinois. Not only would it bring big, hulking, modern-day gladiators with cauliflower ears to the state, but also huge profits as well.

When MMA, or cage fighting, burst onto the scene in 1993 and the Ultimate Fighting Championship was created, it was largely unregulated. The "no holds barred" style of fighting was a huge hit in the pay-per-view arena but since it wasn't regulated, mainstream vendors and venues wanted nothing to do with this sport.

When former amateur boxer, Dana White and casino businessmen Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta purchased UFC in 2001, it was almost bankrupt. White was made president and the UFC soon became a hugely popular and started to make money-lots of it. The Fertitta brothers and White had another problem; MMA had a horrible reputation of being deadly and dangerous. So, it got a major clean up and as of today, no one has died or has been gravely injured in the octagon. Sure, folks get hurt but a 2006 study in the Journal of Sport Science and Medicine states for every 100 MMA fighters, there are 29 injuries. Boxing is slightly lower with 17 injuries for every 100 fighters.

For those who don't know what MMA is, it's a full-contact combat sport that incorporates Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Muy Thai, boxing, wrestling, kickboxing, grappling and striking. However, fighters cannot use fishhooks and eye gouging. Biting and knees to the groin are major no-nos. Also, kicking or kneeing someone in the head when they're down on the mat, is prohibited. Fighters cannot act timid and no one is allowed to throw in the towel. The fight ends by either TKO, submission or if the referee deems it necessary.

Yes, there is blood and lots of it.

Illinois already has a few MMA fighters in residence. Hillsboro native, Matt Hughes, has stated on several occasions that he would like to fight in front of a home state crowd. Also, former Russian policeman Andrei "The Pitbull" Arlovski, lives and trains in Chicago. Arlovski is a building with features. He's huge and imposing and it was mesmerizing to watch him work out at Jabb on the west side. No wonder he gave Tim Sylvia a run for his money. Former cast member of Spike TV's The Ultimate Fighter, Stephan Bonnar also lives and trains in Chicago.

Twenty-two states have sanctioned MMA and the UFC troupe hopes to hold bouts throughout the state, not just in the Chicago area. Even if the Gov signs the proposal today, it is doubtful that any fights will see Illinois before the end of the year since staging these fights takes a great deal of organization.

It's good that the Illinois General Assembly finally got something right. Now, all we need is for the Gov to step into the ring.


Julia Gray is a mixed-martial arts fan with no other interest in this legislation. She just likes blood and guts.


Posted on August 13, 2007

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