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. State athletic commissions do not currently receive adequate information to determine whether mixed martial artists competing in their jurisdiction are being subjected to contract terms and business practices which may violate State regulations, or are onerous and confiscatory.

(3) Promoters who engage in illegal, coercive, or unethical business practices can take advantage of the lack of equitable business standards in the sport by holding MMA events in States with weaker regulatory oversight.

(4) The sanctioning organizations which have proliferated in the MMA industry have not established credible and objective criteria to rate professional mixed martial artists, and operate with virtually no industry or public oversight.  Their ratings are susceptible to manipulation, have deprived mixed martial artists of fair opportunities for advancement, and have undermined public confidence in the integrity of the sport.

(5) Open competition in the professional MMA industry has been significantly interfered with by restrictive and anticompetitive business practices of certain promoters and sanctioning bodies, to the detriment of the athletes and the ticket-buying public.  Common practices of promoters and sanctioning organizations represent restraints of interstate trade in the United States.

(6) It is necessary and appropriate to establish national contracting reforms to protect professional mixed martial artists and prevent exploitive business practices, and to require enhanced financial disclosures to State athletic commissions to improve the public oversight of the sport.”

Of course, the six items immediately above are the Congressional findings that were inserted into the Muhammad Ali Act.  I have taken the liberty to replace the word “boxer” with mixed martial artist, and the word “boxing” with “MMA” to vigorously illustrate how those Congressional findings apply with equal validity to the current state of the mixed martial arts industry.

Mr. Caplan objects to my arguments, using such colorful words as “ridiculous,” “gibberish,” and “nonsensical.”  Interestingly, the owners of the UFC have deemed the issue worthy enough to spend money lobbying against the Muhammad Ali Act’s application to mixed martial arts.2 Unless the Fertitta brothers are in the habit of pursuing “gibberish” and the “nonsensical” by throwing cash its way, they must believe my arguments not only have merit, but may just be applied by a court of law.   The Fertitta brothers may be many things, but I haven’t heard them called fools.

The thrust of Mr. Caplan’s argument centers around the notion that the Muhammad Ali Act was written solely for boxing, and thus, necessarily, cannot be applied to MMA.  Mr. Caplan writes that my argument contains “a fatal flaw” because “nowhere in the Muhammad Ali Act does it contain the phrases ‘mixed martial art[ist]s’ or ‘mixed martial arts.’”3 Mr. Caplan, perhaps because his intent in responding to my article appears to have been dual, with equal parts devoted to criticizing my motives and responding to the substance of the article, appears to have missed the entire point of my prior article which can be read here.   Namely, despite not a single mention of the word “condominium” in the Interstate Land Sales Full Disclosure Act (”Land Sales Act“), both the Housing and Urban Development agency and a court of law deemed the Land Sales Act applicable to condominiums before the word was ever used in the Land Sales Act.4

Next, Mr. Caplan argues that MMA and boxing are really just “apples and oranges,” and that the “business models of boxing and MMA are completely different.”  MMA and boxing are so different, according to Mr. Caplan, that MMA is actually more akin to MLB, the NFL, or NBA than it is to boxing.  Apparently, Caplan is mistaken in his belief that the UFC is modeled after these league sports, considering the UFC obtained sanctioning from the same athletic commissions that regulated boxing and continue to seek such sanctioning even today.  In fact, MMA is governed by the same existing regulatory structures in place for boxing, and many states’ MMA regulations are derived directly from the boxing counterparts.  Again, I have yet to hear anyone call the Fertitta brothers fools.

Mr. Caplan continues by stating in boxing, a fighter signs with a “manager and a promoter.”  The promoter, in Caplan’s view, actually serves “in a lot of ways” as a “second manager.”  In boxing, the “promoter controls your promotional fights and can tell you when, where, and who you will be fighting.”  In MMA, by contrast, a fighter signs with a “manager” and with a “promotion.”  Mr. Caplan then asks, apparently with a straight face, if the reader sees the difference.  I must admit, I myself do not.  Last time I checked, the UFC dictates who, when and where you fight as well.  Matt Lindland even commented on this practice, very recently, in an article posted on Mr. Caplan’s website.5 Finally, when a fighter signs a bout agreement with the UFC, the line where Zuffa signs says “Promoter” not “league.”  In practice and by law, they are a promoter.  And of course, to allow a promoter to be a manager would violate existing state laws and the Muhammad Ali Act.

Quite incredibly, in support of his position that the Muhammad Ali Act doesn’t apply to MMA, Mr. Caplan, as the rankings committee chair of WAMMA which promotes itself as the one and only legitimate sanctioning body in MMA, writes, “there is no rankings system, thus, no mandatory challengers or deadlines.”  Doesn’t the existence of a sanctioning body make the parallels between MMA and boxing all the more clear?

Mr. Caplan further illustrates these so called distinctions between boxing promoters and MMA promotions by claiming that in MMA, a “promotion is an actual company that has a brand identity.”  Apparently, the fact that in MMA “promotions” spend money establishing their own brand instead of, and indeed often in place of the fighters themselves, makes all the difference in the world.  I must admit, I found this attempted distinction between the “promoter” and “promotion” nonsensical.  Top Rank, Inc., last time I checked, was a legitimate company as well, with over seventy five (75) fighters on its roster.  Mr. Caplan is right, however, in that differences do exist.  In boxing, the promotional contract typically imposes duties upon the promoter to the fighter, whereas in MMA, this has been flipped on its head, and typically requires duties of the fighter, to the promoter.

Mr. Caplan then questions “the motives” of anyone who argues for the application of the Muhammad Ali Act to MMA.  I can’t speak for anyone else, but my motives are not hidden at all. I don’t own stock or other equity options in any promotion, and never have.  I am also not a member of any sanctioning body.  I do believe, however, that application of the Muhammad Ali Act to MMA will provide fighters with tools to combat exploitive and oppressive business practices, and thereby increase their market values.  I believe the disclosure mandates of the Muhammad Ali Act, flaws and all, are worlds better than what currently exists today, and will aid fighters in obtaining a fair share of the revenue.  I believe the prohibitions against certain conflicts of interest will also aid fighters in obtaining larger purses.

Next, Mr. Caplan suggests that the likes of me are probably acting strategically, in an “attempt to weaken the UFC’s market share.”  The last time I have checked, all of the major promotions operate under the same business model.  Indeed, the UFC’s contractual practices may be the least offensive.  If applied, the Muhammad Ali Act would impact all promotions alike.  At this point, I am beginning to wonder if Mr. Caplan’s disdain for the Muhammad Ali Act is an official WAMMA position, or if he is speaking for himself only. Indeed, I can think of few entities more hostile to the UFC’s well being than WAMMA itself.

Again, I would like to thank Mr. Caplan for taking the time to discuss this issue.  I would also like to thank Robert Joyner and as well.  This is an important issue, and worthy of debate.  Your recognition is appreciated.  I’m not sure why Mr. Caplan reacted to my article in a personal way, but I appreciate his enthusiasm.  In fact, I agree with and share Mr. Caplan’s thoughtful opinions when it comes to the need for a player’s association in MMA.  In fact, that is what the Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association aspires to be.

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 USCA § 6301.  The findings are taken from the Muhammad Ali Act, and modified by the author by replacing “boxer” with “mixed martial artist” and ‘boxing” with “MMA” to illustrate my point with vigor.


[3] Caplan, Sam.,

[4] Nargiz v. Henlopen Developers, 380 A.2d 1361 (Del. 1977).