PHOENIX – New rules created by an Arizona law jeopardize the safety of cage fighters in the sport of mixed martial arts and could result in serious injury or death, the state's top boxing regulator says.
The new law, which takes effect Sept. 26, will allow cage fighters to elbow their opponents, knee them in the head or punch them in the face while they are on the ground.
John Montano, the Arizona Boxing Commission's longtime executive director, predicts that promoters and fighters won't agree with his strict interpretation of the statute.
Promoters and other critics are fearful that Montano, who has held his post for 32 years, may try to regulate the sport beyond what the law allows.
Gov. Janet Napolitano signed the bill (HB2834) into law in April after lawmakers passed it by an overwhelming margin.
Republican Rep. Jonathan Paton, the bill's sponsor, had argued that the legislation would allow Arizona to host contests like those seen on cable television and would generate state revenue through fees and sales taxes.
The law directs the state's three-member boxing panel to adopt MMA rules that are used in New Jersey, Nevada and other states.
Although it relaxes some fighting rules, it also requires stricter regulations for such things as licensing, insurance and medical screening.
Montano said he sees the new rules as a recipe for serious injury and a direct conflict with his most important mission: keeping fighters safe.