The Maryland Senate held a hearing Tuesday to discuss the legalization of MMA in the state. In the aftermath of that hearing, I caught up with Delegate Kirill Reznik about the next steps in the process. Here is the transcript of that e-mail conversation.
What are your thoughts on the Senate hearings on Tuesday?
I think the hearing went quite well. There was no opposition that testified or submitted testimony. The proponents of the bill did a great job in highlighting the benefits of Professional and Amateur MMA in Maryland, including the health, business, and fiscal benefits that it would generate. Many of the members of the Senate Committee did not seem to know much about the topic, but seemed to appreciate the education and asked pointed questions dealing with safety, among other issues.
What is the next step in this process?
Next week, the same thing will happen all over again on the House side with my bill (HB 795), which is the companion bill to the bill which was heard [Tuesday]. We expect the same, or similar, groups will be represented to testify in favor of the bill. Once all of the testimony is finished, each respective Committee will vote on the bills and they will go to the full Chamber vote. Once those votes take place, (hopefully they will be voted favorable) they will go to the Governor for signature.
Do you think MMA sanctioning has support in both the House and the Senate, and from Governor O'Malley to become law in 2008?
I think there is good support. Also, the MMA community in Maryland has been very active in contacting their respective legislators to make sure that they are aware of the widespread support. The obvious benefits are clear, and the concerns that may be raised can be addressed.
When do you think we will see MMA sanctioned by law in the state of Maryland?
That is difficult to answer. Assuming there is no opposition, and it passes both Chambers, the Governor will then undertake the signing process in the months of April and May. Once it becomes law (which would be July 1, assuming the Governor's approval), then the State Athletic Commission will need to promulgate regulations on all of the details with regard to sanctioning, licensing, and promoting events, as well as training referees, ringside physicians, and others, as well as creating criteria for fighters dealing with physical examinations, fight matching, etc. There is a lot to do and the process is, and should be very deliberative. It may take the Commission as long as a year to get everything drafted, hold public hearings, and finalizing all of the rules.
When does the State Athletic Commission become involved? What is its role once the bill becomes law?
The Athletic Commission has been involved from the start and has been a tremendous help, which is why the hearing process seemed so easy and without opposition. We have been working with them on bill drafting, to make sure that their concerns and requirements were addressed. Its role after the bill becomes law is to draft all of the regulations dealing with MMA Professional and Amateur events in the State (as described in #4 above), and to regulate the events, fighter, trainers, and promoters once events begin.
What do you think is the earliest date that we can see a live professional MMA event here in Maryland?
Very hard to say, but it will definitely not be in 2008. If the bill is signed into law it will take effect on July 1, 2008. 6 months is probably not enough time for the Commission to be able to accurately and professionally do their work.
Do you have any target cities in mind that you believe would make good hosts for the sport here in the state? Baltimore, for example?
There are no specific locations that are currently being looked at, to my knowledge. There are MMA studios throughout the State and the venue will depend on the size and scale of the event. Clearly, 1st Mariner Arena and the Baltimore Convention Center are great locations for large scale events. But also, there are great locations in Montgomery County, such as the North Bethesda Convention Center, the new National Harbor (once completed) in Prince George's County, or Michael's 8th Avenue in Anne Arundel County. As you may know, Michael Wagner's son, Scott, came to testify in favor of the bill to the Senate yesterday, and Michael Wagner is coming to testify for the House bill next week. Also, University locations, such as the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland, would be good locations. But again, much depends on the promoter, fight card, cost, and a number of other factors.