Illinois is ready to take its place in the mixed martial arts world. Beginning Tuesday, the state boxing commission will take over all professional MMA bouts in Illinois, overseeing and regulating everything within the borders. The days of different rules at every event, and inexperienced judges making bad calls, appear to be over.
Illinois is ready to take its place in the mixed martial arts world.
Beginning Tuesday, the state boxing commission will take over all professional MMA bouts in Illinois, overseeing and regulating everything within the borders. The days of different rules at every event, and inexperienced judges making bad calls, appear to be over.
Some are downplaying the effect it will have on the sport, while others are having a difficult time controlling their excitement. The common theme among all local MMA fans, promoters, fighters and officials is that change is on the way.
“There is no doubt,” former local kickboxing great and current MMA up-and-comer Bryce Franck said, “things will be different; in a lot of ways. Once the state steps in, we’ll see changes immediately.”
After years of waiting, the Illinois State Boxing Commission will spend the next month or two refining its new job responsibilities.
On top of the list of most glaring changes sure to be noticed immediately is the uniformed rules, and the addition of fully licensed officials. The state boxing commission will make sure all promoters, fighters and officials are licensed and certified — adding that to their list of fees to pay — and follow the same rules at every show.
Until now, a fight card at one site in Rockford could have completely different rules than another just down the road.
For example, one would allow elbow throws; another would not.
In one spot a fighter could kick a downed fighter anywhere; in another an up-fighter could only kick to the body.
“The unification of the rules is a big one. Fighters, and even the refs, don’t like to have to train a different way for every fight,” said Clay Gooden, a Machesney Park promoter and fight judge. “I’ve been working a lot with the people within the state, and there is no doubt they’re going to come in here and do it right.”
Gooden also is a representative for the International Kickboxing Federation and the International Sport Combat Federation.
Those groups sanctioned events in Illinois before, and will quickly conform to the new ways.
The sports’ two biggest sanctioning bodies — the Ultimate Fighting Championship and World Extreme Cagefighting — however, set up events only in commissioned states, meaning they have yet to set foot in Illinois. Both sides are already in talks to bring UFC and WEC fight-night cards to Illinois in the near future.
This is huge for the area fighters looking to climb the MMA ladder.
“The fighters from Rockford are already making names for themselves. There have always been good fighters from here, and there probably always will be,” said well-respected MMA referee and certified officiating trainer Rob Hinds. “But this will certainly give them more of an opportunity to make it big in the industry.
“I’m absolutely thrilled about this. To see the steps this sport has taken over the years, and the one its about to take, is just unbelievable.”
Although some promoters feel they will be hit the hardest by the changes, many believe it will be worth it. The cost of putting on an MMA event in Illinois will go up — among other reasons, because the state will charge a 3 percent tax on gross ticket sales — and it will be more difficult to get licensed as well.
But those committed to the sport, especially those that step into the cage, all seem to agree that the stiffer rules and more intense monitoring will only make the sport better in the long run.
“The first thing we’ll all notice is that it will definitely be more expensive to put on a show. That’s tough,” said Franck, who was 10-1 and ranked fourth in the kickboxing world before transitioning to MMA in 2007. He’s 2-1 in MMA bouts.
“But the guys I work with are professionals, and they’re all excited. The bigger and better shows, typically the ones that are promoted right, are simply better opportunities. There’ll be a lot more of those now.”
The all-amateur MMA cards still will not be regulated by the state, but any pro fight or fighter will be as of Tuesday. The state has not yet officially locked in a date for its first commissioned card in the area.
Members of the Illinois State Boxing Commission did not return phone calls.
Jay Taft can be reached at (815) 987-1382 or firstname.lastname@example.org.