CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Despite the fact they were recently legalized, a Hancock County legislator is accusing a state athletic official of using his power to keep mixed martial arts events out of the state.
Delegate Randy Swartzmiller was one of several sponsors of a bill passed this year that legalized the sport, commonly referred to as MMA, in West Virginia.
Mixed martial arts is a combat sport that permits participants to use strikes, kicks, chokes and other grappling techniques against their opponents.
House Bill 2562, charged the West Virginia Athletic Commission with adopting rules for the events. Therein lies the rub.
The rules, which are now open for public comment, include stipulations that Swartzmiller believes make it too expensive for smaller promoters to hold MMA events in the state.
He also believes this is a conscious effort by Athletic Commission Chairman Steve Allred, who was a vocal opponent of the sport's legalization, to keep MMA out of the state.
The rules include stipulations that MMA promoters insure every fighter for $100,000, said Sam Minardi, a lobbyist with a major mixed martial arts fight promotion that pushed for legalization. Boxing promoters have to insure their fighters for $20,000 for injuries or accidental death, Minardi said.
MMA rules also include a stipulation that promoters have to put forth a $50,000 bond for an event, he said. Boxing promoters in the state have to put up a $20,000 bond to hold an event, Minardi said.
"This doesn't surprise me," Swartzmiller said. "Steve Allred has made comments that he would set prices so high promoters couldn't come here.
"He (Allred) doesn't care that the people in the state want this," he said. "He doesn't care that the Legislature passed this and the governor signed this.
"He doesn't care because he doesn't want MMA in the state," he said.
Allred said he would not speak about the specific proposed rules until the public comment period ended on July 18.
"I have never publicly commented on any rules for anything until after the public comment period has ended," he said.
But Allred did say he thought accusations that the rules were being drafted to keep small MMA promoters from holding events in the state were "ludicrous" because the legislature had voted to legalize the sport.
Swartzmiller believes Allred is abusing his power as the chairman of the state's Athletic Commission.
"This is a slap in the face of the Legislature and a slap in the face of the governor of the great state of West Virginia," he said.
Minardi also questioned why Allred would propose rules that would make it difficult, if not impossible, for small promoters to hold an event in the state after MMA was legalized by an act of the Legislature.
"The Legislature has said that they want to do this," Minardi said. "Why would he (Allred) implement rules that would basically prohibit any responsible promoter from holding an event?"