Pascua Yaqui Boxing Commission and the WFF Improving MMA in Arizona

Todd JacksonSenior Analyst IApril 20, 2010

In the realm of mixed martial arts there is always a myriad of hot-button topics for enthusiasts and critics alike to discuss.


Everything ranging from the most recent main stream event results, to the right and the wrong of the sport from a moral stand point. 


The well never runs dry with regard to debate in this great sport.


Sometimes in the heat of the discussion it is overlooked what goes on behind the scenes.  Perhaps not so much at the streamlined level of the UFC, but at the regional level where the sport is really battling for its progress and in some cases simply the right to exist. 


The choices and decisions that are made away from the cage can really make or break not only an organization or a fighter, but those who govern how the sport is operated. 


It is people like Pascua Yaqui Tribe Boxing Commissioner Ernie Gallardo who set the tone at the root levels of the sport.


The symbiotic relationship between mixed martial arts and Native American Tribes across this country is a very important and an often overlooked issue. It is refreshing to know how serious this sport is being taken, and how far certain individuals and entities go to ensure that they are on the cutting edge of the sport.


Arizona has long been a hot subject when discussing their reluctance to conform to the "universal rules", or the New Jersey Athletic Commission's rules of the sport. There are certain aspects, especially for the amateur fighter, that many view as a detriment.  


For example, if a fighter is disallowed from throwing elbows, or say knees to the head, not only are they not practiced in executing those techniques in a practical fashion but they also may not be prepared to defend against them. 


So if a fighter is restricted in such a fashion, if ever they do find themselves in a cage or ring fighting under the unified rules they may find themselves at a disadvantage before the bell ever rings.


It is with that in mind that it was encouraging to hear about the perception of Gallardo and his boxing commission with regard to how they regulate their MMA matches. They are on the right track in this particular area when it comes to regulating MMA on their reservation.


Gallardo was kind enough to share some perspective on the topic and how his tribe came to accept the unified rules as their own. 


"When we came into existence in 2003 all we did was boxing," Gallardo said. "I believe it was October 2009, the tribal council voted MMA in." 


"We did it under the New Jersey Athletic Commission's MMA rules and regs, which is really compared to the UFC."


It was not as simple as choosing the rules that were most widely accepted. The Pascua Yaqui Commission did thorough research before deciding which rules to adopt for their new found MMA endeavors. 


"We were going to all these ABC [Association of Boxing Commissioners] conferences and I was talking with all these other tribal commissions," he said. "I believe there [are] fourteen right now, and that's where I got all my info on MMA. 


"The big one being the Mohegan tribe out of Connecticut."


He also talked about what lengths they went to doing their own research and searching for understanding of the sport before making a decision. 


"We attend all these ABC conferences," he said. "They regulate both boxing and mixed martial arts." 

"In 2004 we went to Las Vegas and they put on a show for us. It was the UFC with Dana White and John McCarthy. They showed us the movements of the sport and showed us how safe the sport was compared to boxing. And then in Montreal two years ago John McCarthy put on a clinic for us and, it was an all—day thing, and we took all our staff." 


Their dedication to making the right choice shines through in their research and how serious they took it.


Gallardo discussed how it is that they are in a position to operate under their own choice of rules. 


"The advantage is we have our own commission, there is three of us," he said. "As far as the other indian tribes in the state, the state regulates them." 


This allows them to regulate their own rules as they see fit, providing the necessary flexibility to deviate from the norm across the state.


In closing, Gallardo shared his perspective as to what sets MMA apart with regard to safety and concern for the greater good of the sport and the athlete. 


"Believe it or not, the sport itself is a lot safer than boxing," he said. "In boxing they take all these blows to the head and don't know when to quit. In mixed martial arts, if they break your arm either it will break or you can tap out." 


His point being, the athlete is given an out if they know the fight is over. 


All in all, Gallardo and the Pascua Yaqui Tribe have raised the bar in more ways than one. Not only have they stepped outside the box at a localized level and blazed their own path with regard to MMA rules and regulations, but they have provided a level proving ground for Arizona fighters.


This opened the door for Al Fuentes and Thom Ortiz of the World Fighting Federation to choose what they felt was the most positive and accurate circumstances for them to hold their events. They wanted to provide fighters and fans the most consistent type of event with regard to how it relates to the highest levels of MMA.


As a fan, rest assured this is also conducive to some outstanding matches.


Fighters now have a venue and outlet in which they can practice their art as it is meant to be contested as they make their journey from regional up—and—comer to being a part of the future of this sport. They will now have first—hand practical knowledge of how this sport operates at the highest levels and they will be prepared for that should their time come.


It is refreshing to know that the research has been done, the hours of deliberation have passed, and Gallardo and his Commission made the educated choices they did.


Believe it when it is said, there is a small army of fighters that appreciate that more than anyone.