Battle Lines Being Drawn: Why the Muhammad Ali Act Should Apply to MMA

Zuffa, LLC’s (”Zuffa“)1 efforts in opening new jurisdictions for, and regulating the sport of mixed martial arts (”MMA“) are laudable.  MMA is now sanctioned in 32 states, and it is safe to say that is largely due to the efforts of Zuffa.  Currently, Zuffa is ambitiously attempting to gain approval for mixed martial arts in the State of New York.

Zuffa’s efforts have extended to lobbying members of Congress.  Recently, it was reported that Zuffa retained the Washington D.C. firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck (”Brownstein“) to lobby members of Congress.  Reportedly, Brownstein’s mission is predominantly educational to advise members of Congress how far the UFC has evolved since its inception.  Makan Delrahim, a former top Justice Department official who is now a lobbyist at Brownstein stated:

 “UFC is at the point where they are one of the fastest-growing sports leagues, and we want to make sure members of Congress are aware of the changes MMA has undergone.”2

Brownstein, however, is also lobbying members of Congress in regards to the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2007, introduced by Senator John McCain last year.3 Zuffa’s efforts are targeted towards avoiding being placed under the auspices of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000 (the “Muhammad Ali Act” or “Act“) and the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2007, which supplements and adds to the Muhammad Ali Act.


Muhammad Ali Act: A Step Ahead

Mr. Brent Brookhouse, of, posted a response to my original article entitled “Battle Lines Being Drawn:  Why the Muhammad Ali Act Should Apply to MMA.”  The original article can be found here:  Mr. Brookhouse’s full response can be found here.  Unfortunately, Mr. Brookhouse’s entire argument is either based upon incorrect factual assumptions, or a misunderstanding of the Muhammad Ali Act itself.  I address each of Mr. Brookhouse’s contentions below.

1)    Long term contracts.

2)    Credible rankings.

3)    Inconsistent procedures.

4)    Hidden agreements.

5)    Options.

Mr. Brookhouse concludes by stating:  “I can not stress enough that the Ali Act was created for a sport with a completely different organizational structure than MMA.”  History has proven you wrong.  The history of Zuffa is one of regulation, fitting MMA into the Boxing regulations so the sport would not die.  Zuffa, in large part, is made up of former state boxing regulators.  Indeed, why would Zuffa hire Ratner (a boxing official) instead of league attorneys from one of the major sports if they are really just a “franchise” or “league?”  If this argument were as simple as Mr. Brookhouse suggests, Zuffa would not be paying lobbyists to fight application of the Act.

Know who carved the peg, before you cite that Korean proverb.


Six Good Reasons To Apply the Muhammad Ali Act to Mixed Martial Arts

Sam Caplan, of, asked for just one GOOD reason as to why the Muhammad Ali Act Boxing Reform Act of 2000 (the “Muhammad Ali Act“) should be applied to Mixed Martial Arts (”MMA“).  Ask, and you shall receive.  Before I proceed further, let me first thank Mr. Caplan for taking the time to read and respond to my article, which delves into subject matter that many may find dull.  It is of the utmost importance, however, and Mr. Caplan’s time and effort in discussing the subject is greatly appreciated.

Immediately below, are six good reasons why the Muhammad Ali Act should be applied to mixed martial arts:

“The Congress makes the following findings:1

(1) Professional MMA differs from other major, interstate professional sports industries in the United States in that it operates without any private sector association, league, or centralized industry organization to establish uniform and appropriate business practices and ethical standards.  This has led to repeated occurrences of disreputable and coercive business practices in the MMA industry, to the detriment of professional mixed martial artists nationwide.
(2) State officials are the proper regulators of professional MMA events, and must protect the welfare of professional mixed martial artists and serve the public interest by closely supervising MMA activity in their jurisdiction.

Muhammad Ali Act: Applies Only to Boxers?

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


Why the Muhammad Ali Act Should Apply to MMA

Eddie Goldman of NHBnews published an article on December 27, 2007, which contained detailed quotes from Fedor Emelianenko.  The article can be found here:  Unfortunately, I didn’t see this article while drafting the initial blog, but it is worth referencing now.

In the article, Fedor Emelianenko detailed the reasons he chose not to sign with Zuffa.  Emelianenko stated:

“The contract that we were presented with by the UFC was simply impossible, couldn’t be signed–I couldn’t leave.  If I won, I had to fight up to eight times in two years.  If I lost one fight, then the UFC had the right to rip up the contract.  At the conclusion of the contract, if I am undefeated, then it automatically extends for an as yet unspecified time, though for the same compensation.”

Emelianenko continued:

 “Basically, I can’t leave undefeated.  I can’t give interviews, appear in films or advertising.  I don’t have the right to do anything without the UFC’s agreement.  I could do nothing without the OK from the UFC.  I didn’t have the right to compete in combat sambo competition.