South Dakota Rep Calls MMA 'Child Porn of Sports': UFC and Agent Battle Back

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South Dakota Rep Calls MMA 'Child Porn of Sports': UFC and Agent Battle Back
David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

It's been more than a decade since the infamous phrase "human cockfighting" was uttered by Arizona Senator John McCain when describing his thoughts on mixed martial arts.  It's also been six years and counting from when McCain himself turned around those views with organizations like the UFC, charging towards regulation and government oversight for the sport.

In the state of South Dakota currently, lawmakers are attempting to pass a bill to institute a state athletic commission to oversee activities such as mixed martial arts, but unfortunately some very uneducated government officials are still trying to block the move, with one state representative using some very nasty language to blast the sport.

Representative Steve Hickey (R) has opposed the bill first brought to the legislature by Senator Mark Johnston (R) that would help the state of South Dakota create its own athletic commission.

Hickey, along with Governor Dennis Daugaard, vehemently oppose the bill passing with mixed martial arts being one of the sports governed by the new athletic commission.

"Decent and civil societies have to draw the line somewhere; with smoking we draw the line after tobacco and before pot; with “adult entertainment” we draw the line at child porn. With violent combative “sports” I suggest we draw the line at cage fighting," said Hickey in his personal blog.  (Hickey fails to mention that marijuana was actually legalized in states like Colorado and Washington during the last election cycle, but that's neither here nor there)

"MMA cage fighting is the child porn of sports."

David Martin, a defense attorney, manager and head of the Martin Advisory Group, who works with more than 20 UFC fighters, including Gray Maynard and Chris Weidman, is a native of South Dakota, who still runs his business out of the state today.

Martin has been battling Hickey and those like him in the state legislature who are trying to stop MMA from being regulated in the state.  He also takes great offense that Hickey chose to compare mixed martial arts to something as sick and disgusting as child pornography.

"As a criminal defense attorney, I represented individuals accused of some heinous crimes, but there's one crime I could not bring myself to defend and that was child molestation or crimes involving child pornography.  People accused of this crime are entitled to defense, no doubt about it.  I just personally could not do it.  Speaking in regards to the athletes that I represent, I know the dedication and commitment it takes to compete at the highest level and for this guy to make a comparison to what these guys do to child porn or to even use the words child porn in a discussion about mixed martial arts is irresponsible and ignorant," said Martin when speaking to Bleacher Report on Monday.  "It really shows the lack of education this guy has regarding this sport and throws any credibility he has out the window."

Martin actually spoke before the South Dakota state congress about the sport of MMA, and he hopes to continue the battle until the law passes to create a regulatory body.  To Martin, it's not even about bringing an event like the UFC to South Dakota. For now, it's about making sure the right people are licensed to promote a fight card safely.

Representative Steve Hickey (R) from South Dakota

In 2012, 26-year-old Dustin Jenson died after fighting in an unregulated bout in South Dakota, and while the promoter at the time did provide medical personnel at the event, and fighters were questioned prior to competing about their medical history, they were not required to submit blood work, neurological x-rays or clearance as required by state athletic commissions.  Jenson died a week after being submitted at an amateur show in Rapid City, South Dakota.

Martin says that's a major reason why regulation needs to happen in South Dakota—to prevent more situations like what happened to Dustin Jenson.  Over the last 13-plus years, MMA has continued to work tirelessly to gain acceptance by working along with state athletic commissions for regulation and rules to protect the fighters involved with each individual show, and to make promoters responsible for certain requirements before, during and after a card happens.

"That's the heart of the problem, these guys are not educated on the sport," said Martin.  "What's happening in the state of South Dakota today is unregulated fights, and to me that's not a sport.  That's what I believe the opposition is getting their views from for what's happening within the state.  So if you regulate that, you're eliminating that.  You're eliminating these unregulated fights."

Martin also points to the great deal of good mixed martial artists who have already contributed to South Dakota, despite the sport not being regulated there yet.  Fighters like Ryan Bader and Gray Maynard have traveled to the state to put on free wrestling clinics for youth programs, as well as support charity efforts in South Dakota.

One of those charitable organizations is run by Miami Heat guard Mike Miller, who hails from Mitchell, South Dakota.  Miller owns a gym alongside UFC fighters Ryan Bader, C.B. Dollaway and Aaron Simpson in Arizona, and has actually trained with the fighters during his down time away from the NBA.

Miller's charity, the Mike Miller Foundation, has donated millions of dollars to places like the Sanford Children's Hospital in South Dakota, and he's worked tirelessly with several high-profile MMA fighters who have traveled to the state to show support during his various campaigns and events.

Martin, who also manages and works with Miller, believes that this attempt to bar mixed martial arts from the state is nothing more than a publicity ploy from Hickey to get his name in the headlines instead of actually researching and understanding the sport he's trying to ban.

"For years Representative Hickey and Governor Daugaard have done nothing," Martin stated.  "By sitting on their hands they have in essence allowed unregulated mixed martial arts to happen. These unregulated fights are what led Senator Johnston to propose the bill and now Hickey, who has done nothing to prevent these events from happening, it trying to amend the bill Senator Johnston put forward to ban MMA.  From listening to the guy, he has no knowledge of the sport and the comments that he's making right now are to put himself in the spotlight."

UFC Vice President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner, who has overseen the legalization and regulation of mixed martial arts in several states and countries around the world, has seen the goings on in South Dakota and has no problem gearing up for a fight.

Like so many states before, Ratner has seen this happen and he's already looking into how the UFC can help educate and inform the legislature in South Dakota to help bring regulation to mixed martial arts.

"We’re aware of the SD situation and in the process of hiring a South Dakota lobbying firm to educate the politicians and if need be to go there and testify about MMA," Ratner said in a statement to Bleacher Report on Monday.  "When any sport is driven underground the fights still happen and they need to be regulated. When fights are unregulated there could be no insurance, no proper medicals, no guarantees that the fighters would get paid so it makes no sense not to have proper regulation."

The key word is regulation, and Martin agrees with Ratner and Senator Mark Johnston that the state needs to welcome mixed martial arts the right way with regulation and oversight.

"Regulation is the answer, not prohibition," said Martin.  "I want regulation as much as anybody to eliminate what's happening in the state right now."

Damon Martin is a featured columnist at Bleacher Report and all quotes were obtained first hand unless otherwise noted.

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