In discussion with various individuals in the mixed martial arts industry, it is often said that while mixed martial artists should be afforded some form of protection, the Muhammad Ali Act is not applicable to mixed martial arts.  In support of this notion, it is said that the Muhammad Ali Act utilizes the terms “boxer” and “boxing,” and makes no mention of the terms “mixed martial arts” or “mixed martial artist.”


This article argues that despite the usage of the term “boxer,” the Muhammad Ali Act is still applicable to mixed martial arts and mixed martial artists.  To make this argument, an analysis of the history behind the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (the “Land Sales Act“) and its applicability to condominium sales is instructive.  As discussed below, the federal agency designated to administer the Land Sales Act determined that it applied to condominiums nine years before Congress used the term “condominium” at all. 


I.  Land Sales Act.1


A.  Scope and Protections of the Land Sales Act.


The Land Sales act was enacted by Congress to combat fraud in the sale of land.  The Land Sales Act was the federal government’s response to widespread fraud occurring in the interstate sale of lands.  The use of mails for interstate land sales proliferated during the 1960’s, and abuses soon became widespread.2 In general, these sales involved undeveloped realty, such as swampland in Florida, desert in Arizona, land under water or otherwise undevelopable.


The Land Sales Act, in summary, prohibits a “developer” from selling or leasing any “lot” in a “subdivision”, through the use of interstate commerce unless it complies with the Land Sales Act or falls within an applicable exemption.  Like the securities laws after which it was modeled, the Land Sales Act uses disclosure as it primary tool to combat fraud.


B.  Legislative History of the Land Sales Act.


As initially enacted by Congress, the Land Sales Act did not use the word “condominium” at all.  Many legal commentators and scholars believed the Land Sales Act did not apply to condominiums by intention of Congress and for policy reasons.  In drafting the statute to protect purchasers of land, Congress made the Land Sale Act applicable to “lots.”  Commentators presumed that Congressional usage of the term “lot” without inclusion of “condominium” supported the interpretation that the Land Sales Act applied only to raw land.


The Office of Interstate Land Sales Registration (”OILSR“), however, created by the Housing and Urban Development (”HUD“) agency to oversee the Land Sales Act, determined as early as 1969 that the Land Sales Act applied to condominiums.  Again, in 1972, OILSR issued an “advisory opinion which concluded that condominium units were included within the definition of ‘lots.’”3 OILSR subsequently formalized this interpretation of the Land Sales Act in the form of regulations.  According to the OILSR, a condominium is equivalent to a subdivision, with each condominium unit being a “lot.”


HUD issued a formal pronouncement in 1973, declaring that it interpreted the Land Sales Act to apply to condominiums, and stated that it consistently followed the same interpretation since 1969.  HUD reiterated the position of the OILSR in determining that the Land Sales Act applied to condominiums again in 1974.  In 1978, Congress amended the Land Sales Act, and for the first time, included the word “condominium” into a single provision.  Congress inserted the word “condominium” in a provision exempting sales of improved land under certain circumstances.  In enacting this amendment to the Land Sales Act, Congress again created fodder for debate.  One view interpreted this amendment as necessarily implying that the Land Sales Act was applicable to condominiums–otherwise, the inclusion of the term “condominium” in the exemption provision would be rendered superfluous.  The second view, however, imparted a much narrower intent on behalf of Congress in passing the amendment.  According to the second view, the amendment acted only to exempt land sales upon which a “condominium” rests.  This view is also supported by rules of statutory construction, which mandates that where Congress employs a term in one section of a statute, and not in another, the term should not be implied where it was excluded. 4


C.  Judicial Interpretation of the Land Sales Act.


In 1985, the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit definitively ruled that the Land Sales Act applied to condominiums.5 In deference to the agency interpretation of HUD, and in implementing the antifraud and consumer protection purposes of the Land Sales Act, the court ruled that the Land Sales Act applied to condominiums.  The court, in reaching its conclusion, not only looked toward HUD’s interpretation of the Land Sales Act, but also towards the legislative history and purposes behind passage of the Land Sales Act.  The court noted that the legislative history of the Land Sales Act employs the terms “land” and “real estate,” in addition to the term “lots.” Thus, Congressional intent to prevent fraud in the sale of real estate, regardless of the form of ownership, should control.  In ruling that the Land Sales Act applied to condominiums, the court concluded that the fraudulent sale of land is “not rendered any less fraudulent if the condominium form of ownership is utilized.”6


II.  Imparting the Lessons of the Land Sales Act to the Muhammad Ali (Safety) Act.

The Land Sales Act was enacted to protect consumers in the purchase of “lots” from unscrupulous developers and promoters.  Despite the usage by Congress of the term “lots”, with no mention of the term “condominium”, HUD examined the legislative history and intent, and determined that the consumer protections and antifraud purposes behind the Land Sales Act applied equally to both raw land and condominium units.  Judicial interpretations of the Land Sales Act echoed HUD’s interpretation, even despite contrary evidence of Congressional intent.


Unlike the sale of interstate lands, there is no federal agency designated to oversee activities in boxing or mixed martial arts, despite prior legislative attempts.  Thus, no federal agency is available to issue agency interpretations applying the Muhammad Ali Act to boxers and mixed martial artists.  However, many members of the media and state athletic commissions have declared that the protections afforded by the Muhammad Ali Act to boxers are equally necessary for mixed martial artists.  Mark Cuban has stated publicly he believes the Muhammad Ali Act already applies to mixed martial arts.  Armando Garcia, commissioner of the California State Athletic Commission, believes similar protections should be afforded to mixed martial artists.  Fighters themselves believe the Muhammad Ali Act should apply to mixed martial artists, including, among others, Matt Lindland and Randy Couture.


Additionally, like the Land Sales Act, the legislative history of the Muhammad Ali Act indicates that Congress employed the terms “fighter” and “athlete” in addition to the term “boxer.”  Finally, the Congressional intent in passing the Muhammad Ali Act, namely, the protection of boxers from exploitive and coercive business practices, applies with equal force to the current status of mixed martial artists.  Thus, despite the Muhammad Ali Act’s usage of only the term “boxer,” as the history behind the interpretation and development of the Land Sales Act instructs, do not assume necessarily that the Muhammad Ali Act does not apply to mixed martial artists.


For a more expanded article on the Muhammad Ali Act’s applicability to mixed martial arts, please click here.


Rob Maysey is a licensed attorney in the states of Arizona, California, and Minnesota. He received his BA in Politics from Whitman College and his JD from Cornell Law School. He has followed the sport of mixed martial arts closely since being introduced to Brazilian jiu-jitsu in 1998 by a law school classmate.


[1] 15 U.S.C.A. § 1701-1720.

[2] Olivier, James L.  “Beyond Consumer Protection:  The Application of the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act to Condominium Sales,” University of Florida Law Review , 37 UFLLR 945 (1985).

[3] Id. At 951.

[4] Id. at 953.

[5] Winter v. Hollingsworth Properties, Inc., 777 F.2d 1444 (11th Cir. 1985).

[6] Id. at 1448.