CAPE GIRARDEAU, MO (KFVS) - There have been mixed reactions to a proposal the Missouri House passed that would put restrictions on kickboxing and mixed martial arts (MMA) competitions held in the state.
Proponents point to new safety rules in the bill aiming to protect children from potential brain damage, while opponents of it think the bill could restrict parental rights and cost promoters big money.
House Bill 1388 was approved Thursday in a 112-29 vote and would add amateur kickboxing, professional MMA, and amateur MMA contests to a list of fighting sports that are under state supervision.
The bill states that no fighters under the age of 18 are allowed to participate "in any professional or amateur event the division regulates, other than amateur kickboxing."
Two other sections of the bill prohibit the use of elbow strikes and knee strikes to the head during any amateur MMA match.
In her 12 years as an athletic trainer with Saint Francis Medical Center, Kate Yamada said blows to the head are relatively common across all sports, especially competitive fighting.
Yamada thinks any effort to limit the exposure of head injuries is important, especially when it comes to protecting young athletes with brains still in development.
"Adolescents are for the most part the most at risk for a sudden death. Like a second impact syndrome after a second concussion it they would get hit again," Yamada said. "The more awareness we can bring and protect them, they're going to live a longer better life, and they're going to be able to participate in their sport longer and better."
Tae Kwon Do instructor Deray Ivie owns Peak Performance and said they don't push all of their students to participate in tournaments, but instead recommend it because it adds to the experience.
"We've seen so many kids thrive in that type of atmosphere," Ivie said. "It's a good way to actually challenge themselves and it's good healthy competition. There are people who train in MMA that never have aspirations to get into a cage, but they use it for weight loss, to build confidence, and use it for self-defense."
While they train and compete, Ivie's students are required to wearing protective gear and follow certain rules.
"The junior safety rules are for kids under the age of 17 and under the belt of blue," Ivie said. "It's very strict on head contact, or zero head contact. That is for the safety of the competitor and it also lets the parents rest easy for the kid."
Ivie he has seen dozens of MMA matches around the country and has helped organize some local 'Cage of Honor' events. At both the professional and amateur level, Ivie said adult fighters are required to prove their age by showing an ID and must follow rules that limit head injuries.
"No head contact behind the head, no eye gouging, no fish hooking," Ivie said. "No crazy stuff like that. It mainly stays in the face, in the temples and the base of the jaw."
While Ivie said he supports parts of the new bill that focus on safety, he disagrees a section that would require promoters to obtain a license by providing 'the office a surety bond in the amount of twenty-five thousand dollars or an irrevocable letter of credit in the amount of at least twenty-five thousand dollars.'
"Now $25,000 for some of the bigger promotions, that is nothing," Ivie said. "But for the local, the amateur level it would be a huge gap to fill. Maybe this bill could be a good thing but I think in that aspect it's about the money because most of these rules have already been set in place."
Now that House Bill 1388 has passed it will move onto the Senate where it will acted on further.