The number of states currently sanctioning mixed martial arts competitions could soon grow to 38 ... real soon.
South Carolina legislators are looking to lift a ban that prevents fights from occurring within the state. The measure is set for a vote today in the full Senate Labor, Commerce and Industry Committee. The House approved the bill in February.
Unlike in other states like New York, the measure to legitimize MMA in the Palmetto State looks to be facing significantly fewer roadblocks. The state has a strong existing fan base and legislators are eager to tap in to the economic benefits of bringing larger MMA shows to the state.
Officials have estimated the move could yield 5 percent of ticket receipts for the state Revenue Department, as well as 5 percent for the Athletic Commission, not to mention the considerable economic boom for local hotels, restaurants, bars and other retail stores.
That all adds up pretty fast.
The bill would lift the ban on MMA and place the sport under the regulation of the state Athletic Commission. Licensing of professional fighters would include physical exams, blood tests and drug testing, just as other states require.
While the state currently bans the sport, it has no jurisdiction over the U.S. Marines’ training facility at Parris Island, where an International Championship Fighting event occurred last October.
"I don’t think it’s any more dangerous than football," said Sen. Lee Bright (R-Roebuck) in a recent interview with the USA Today. In fact, the Senator admits some of his friends are "huge fans" of the combat sport.
Sen. Jake Knotts (R-Lexington), who introduced the measure in 2008, said that lifting the ban and regulating the sport would help curb illegal fights that have taken place in the past. Said the Senator, legalizing the sport would be better than residents "going in the back woods somewhere and getting hurt."
Michael Tyler, chairman of South Carolina’s Athletic Commission, said that he fields calls on a weekly basis from promoters hoping to get the ban lifted. "It would be a huge economic impact, monetarily for the state," he said.