In Favor of Government Regulation

In general, I am not in favor of government regulation of pretty much anything, since most of the time the rules don’t make sense or favor certain parties, and/or are written by people that don’t know what they are talking about. But I think what I saw Saturday night was an exception that I am willing to make. What you see below is our fight team head coach taping the hands of one of our fighters. As an aside, we had three fighters in Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) competition Saturday night and went 3-0, with two knockouts and one submission.

I have been backstage many times with the fighters, but there was never anyone watching or looking around. The woman dressed in the black is a state of Wisconsin inspector. She was making sure that the taping of the hands was legal.

There are rules now on how you can tape hands – the most important being that you can tape between the knuckles, but not over them. This disallows the “casting” of your hand, which effectively turns it into a club. The regulation tape is only 1″ wide.

After the hands were taped, the inspector signed the tape. Then the glove goes on over the taping, and that is taped as well – and the inspector watched me doing this and signed off on that too. After you are taped and signed, no fighter was allowed to leave the locker room area without having an inspector escort (typically to the restroom, or to the cage to inspect for footing and the flex of the fence).

In the old days, none of this happened. We just taped the hands, one of the guys running the fights would glance at it, and that was that. There were no locker room regulations, or anyone from any authority back there. The inspectors also checked everyone’s shorts and one guy had to cut some laces off that weren’t able to be tucked away.

The pre-fight meeting was better too. The referee clearly explained all the rules (there are many more than you think) to the fighters and the coaches and corners. The promoter of the fights also said that no taunting of the opponent would be tolerated, and that if you did taunt, you would never appear on the card again. And that went for coaches and seconds as well. Celebration, OK – but taunting, no way.

Security was also tighter. I had to show my “seconds” license from the State of Wisconsin to receive my passes to enter the locker room and to be cageside. By the way there is no test to be a second. Just fill out a form and send in $40.

As I mentioned in the beginning of the post, I typically disdain the government getting into stuff like this, but every single person there from the State knew exactly what they were talking about, knew the rules, and were extremely professional and helpful. There were a lot of questions since this was the first time a lot of us had seen a state presence such as this and all were dealt with fairly.

The fighters have to go through a much more rigorous testing to get their license; blood work, doctors inspections and more.

MMA is huge and getting bigger every day. I think that a set, established, group of rules is a good thing for the sport, and will help keep idiots out of the ring and out of the way.

21 thoughts on “In Favor of Government Regulation”

  1. Many years ago my parents had a friend (now deceased) who was on the CA Boxing Commission. Before the govmint got in it was a mess of fraud…(not that govt has completely cleaned it up ;-) )

  2. I think the chance of fraud is pretty low for most MMA cards – the vast majority are local/regional shows where the fighters are getting paid very little and there is no real betting line. I can see fraud opportunities in the larger UFC shows where there is a Vegas line and a huge sold out stadium and big pay per view revenue stream.

    More importantly to me are the issues of cheating and safety. These guys hit hard enough all on their own.

  3. There *should* be a way for private provision of regulation that is more fair and trustworthy to beat the state at this job, and when that problem is solved, we should move to private regulation because the solution will be better. Until then state regulation has a place.

  4. …. She was making sure that the taping of the hands was legal.

    One thing about professional sports that has always amazed me is that – when money is involved – competition gets a lot less friendly and so many people think of creative ways of – if not breaking the rules – but stretching them so much like taffy.

    I remember a story in NASCAR – some team, to get the last few pounds of weight advantage, dipped the steel body in acid – when the car won, and the driver was being interviewed by the TV crew – he is leaning on the roof – and it collapses.

    I think what they did was illegal and this incident got them caught.

    Then in the early 90s when Mercedes-Benz decided to try Indy Car racing they contracted with Ilmor – a famous engine builder – and they found a loophole in the rules making a pushrod engine.

    Whatever the loophole was this engine allowed them to blow away the competition that year.

    F1 is notorious for this kind of rule-stretching, where $400 million a year is probably the norm for campaigning a competitive team.

    Point is when you mention the inspector making sure the hands were taped legally it is amazing in a way to think that competition could be such that creative coaches think of ways to get that slight advantage just in how one applies tale to the hands.

    Money and competition makes people seek the slightest advantage.

  5. In general I agree Bill. In the old days we would never think of “casting” because if you got caught you would simply never be invited to a card again – and the promoters knew almost every gym and their representatives and understood that these gyms had good reputations and would run things fairly. Now with so many cards and so many people getting into MMA, that isn’t as big of a penalty to be restricted from a show (you can always go to another one next week just up the road a bit), and there are a LOT more gyms now too. Many, many new faces.

  6. In most sports, the rules are established by a league, and the rule enforcer is the commissioner of the league. I don’t see why your sport should br different.

  7. Because there is no single “league” for the thousands of MMA events that take place across the country. The rules, however are pretty much all the same, the Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts. Of course the rules vary by state, just like boxing – and boxing rules also vary slightly by sanctioning body (WBA, WBO, IBF, WBC, etc.).

  8. The relation between who regulates and who doesn’t depends upon the balance of power and the incentives that balance opens or closes to encroachment, kingdom-building, or profiteering. You want a regulator (public or private) to be independent enough so that it’s not just a rubber stamp for the powerful, real enough that it just isn’t for show, and strong enough that it doesn’t just sell its judgements to the highest bidder. But you also but checked enough by other ambition or power centers to be kept honest.

    Once upon a time I had a dispute with a local health insurance provider that’s de facto a public utility because of its vast bulk. I filed a complaint with the state insurance commission. The complaint was denied. Turns out there’s just one civil servant that handles all state insurance examination for just this one organization. I wonder how independent one bureaucrat can be compared to the buying power of a local economic leviathan. The insurance also had some sort of internal review process but I was even less sanguine about its ability to resist internal political pressures discouraging judgements against the organization than the state bureaucrat. In the end it did no better than the state in this case.

    The arguments for localizing power and privatizing regulation as much as possible is my preferred option. However, there is a constant thread over the last 1,000 years of English history for locals opting for the justice of the King or the central government because local powers were too unchecked. This leads to the centralization of regulation which sometimes leads to locals wanting power redistributed to localities. It seems to depend on who’s up or who’s down on the local political scene. A creative tension between the two may be the best outcome.

    The problem with private regulation is oftentimes the private regulator is bought and paid for by the regulated and is all too happy to conflate regulation with cheerleading. The incentive for private organizations to set up or tolerate other private organizations whose sole function is to keep them in check is somewhat low since it often conflicts with enhancing managerial power. While the same is often true of public regulators, the distinction between state and private power (the monopoly of violence) sometimes gives the state regulator more independence (for good or for ill).

  9. ” I filed a complaint with the state insurance commission. The complaint was denied. Turns out there’s just one civil servant that handles all state insurance examination for just this one organization.”

    For this exact reason, the California Medical Association required regulation of HMos by the Corporation Commission when we got a law regulating them. It’s probably moot now and some wondered at the time why we were doing this. That’s why.

  10. The biggist issue I have with regulators, any regulator, is when they don’t regulate. In Ontario, Canada in the early 1990’s a tourist was killed in a malfunctionng elevator. It was revealed in the news media the province of Ontario only had a handful of elevator inspectors. The provincial population of 10 million people and the geographic size meant inspectors only had time for cursory inspections of new builds. Existing elevating devices (including escalators and dumb waiters) licenses were automatically renewed and never inspected. Liquor license inspectors turned out to be the same; new license applications were reviewed and inspections only occurred if there was a complaint (17 year old Suzie comming home drunk from a local bar and an angry father screaming on the telephone to his provincial legislator).

    The public sees a license hanging in an elevator or bar and assumes all is kosher. Turns out the license means the joint paid the license fee.

  11. Norm – look at our SEC and Bernie Madoff. Even when they got complaints about him, nothing was done. Don’t think anyone lost their job over that. Building inspectors, go on down the list –

  12. >>>> every single person there from the State knew exactly what they were talking about, knew the rules, and were extremely professional and helpful.

    Not a cool enough issue, or a position of substantial enough power over the lives of others, to get a bunch of dunderheaded bureaucrats appointed to the supervisory roles. Plus it’s young enough that there aren’t a lot of deadwood rules lying around created by someone looking to “Do Something!” to look like they’re earning their keep.

    There ought to be laws that automatically eliminate any rule or law over ‘x’ years old, which cannot be “re-instated” by the regulatory bureaucrats — make the legislative government itself decide that such rules are worthy of actual enactment. Something along those lines — to clear out deadwood laws that seemed right but clearly aren’t, and things that no longer make sense, like “No buggy whips shall be cracked after 9pm at night”.

  13. >>> The public sees a license hanging in an elevator or bar and assumes all is kosher. Turns out the license means the joint paid the license fee.

    This should be devolved onto the insurance companies, anyway. They have the main liability concerns next to the owners, and so it’s in their vested interests to make sure things get properly inspected.

    You might be able to make the same case for the MMA stuff: If you require liability insurance, then the insurance companies will set rational rules and enforce them, I’d suspect.

  14. IGotBupkis – you bring up a good point with insurance. I am sure that for the promoters to get a policy for the event they had to sign up and say that the event was state regulated. The fighters all signed their lives away before entering the cage, but the seconds (like me) didn’t sign anything. But like I said, all of the inspectors in the locker room and the regulations are a new thing here in Wisco.

  15. @Dan – @bupkis – with pilot’s licenses the insurance companies are effectively regulating licensing. Say you have an FAA license for “dingle engine land (they do offer seaplane ratings).

    You would be “legal” to fly anything from a 100 mph 2 seat 100 hp Cessna 150 to a 1500 hp 450 mph P51 Mustang.

    Now with about 100 Mustangs left in flyable condition an owner would be nuts to let an untested license owner take his plane (much less the license owner, if he had any sense – wondering if he needed some specified training) – but let’s say, hypothetically – said license holder had the $2 million or so to buy one.

    What would keep him from flying it?

    The lack of insurance – the companies would want evidence of a rigid training program (much like the 20 year olds had 70 years ago – in Stearmans, then 600 hp T6 advanced trainers, finally the Mustang).

    The insurane companies have their tables and probability charts ;-)

  16. >>> What would keep him from flying it?

    What keeps you from driving your 250k Bentley without a license or insurance? As far as potential damage, off hand, I’d bet I could maim or injure far more people with the Bentley than with the Mustang, if I set out to do it. Not going to detail how, here, but I’m pretty sure you’d agree if I did.

    You also seem to think that people with lots and lots of money are really foolish in terms of wealth-related behaviors. This is true of some, notably people who win State Lotteries — but for the most part, if you earned your wealth, you know how to care for it and not take insanely stupid risks… like buying a ridiculously rare, expensive plane and then not learning how to fly it properly.

    And, in the end, it’s kind of a self-correcting behavior. Anyone remember This Guy?

    All the regulations in the world weren’t going to stop that irresponsible idiot from killing himself someday (Nota bene, btw — he didn’t earn his wealth, he inherited it).

    There’s a limit to what regulations can do in terms of general public safety, especially if we want to counterbalance them with individual freedom of action.

  17. >>> I am sure that for the promoters to get a policy for the event they had to sign up and say that the event was state regulated.

    I’d argue that’s actually ass-backwards. What does the state get from regulation except taxes and fees? Why do they care if it’s properly run or not? What is to stop the inspectors from getting bought off, esp. since the typical pattern is for the State to suck off the money from taxing it into a nice big fat slushpile, and then dole out only a part of what they got for the purposes of actual regulation. So you will eventually wind up with fewer inspectors, less well trained, and so forth, because the State really doesn’t have any downside to that. If someone cheats, or someone gets killed, they’ll just claim they aren’t getting enough money, and need to raise taxes/fees for hiring and training more inspectors.

    Perhaps you’re aware of the expenses incurred by “inspection failure” in regards to this event?

    Contrast this with an insurance-paid model, in which the insurance company hires or selects a group of possible hires (one of which must be selected by the promoter) for the inspection process. They have a serious, vested interest to not only pick good companies with a good track record of inspections, but also a vested interest to check and be sure that those inspectors can’t be easily bought off to look the other way.

    I like vested interest. It’s a Real Good Thing.

    It directly and explicitly connects Authority with Responsibility. And that’s rarely A Real Bad Thing.

  18. @IGotBupkis – I think the analogy between the Bentley and the Mustang isn’t quite the same. Drive a Hyundai economy car and if you are safe with it you can do the same with a Bentley. Of course you can floor the Bentley and go faster than the Hyundai but you have the capability of keeping the Bentley within the same parameters.

    If you can fly a simple Cessna well and jump into a Mustang – that Mustang can kill you pretty quick – most likely on takeoff.

    The higher performance the aircraft the less tolerance they have for flying “outside the envelope” – and unlike going on a freeway at 70 – in the Hyundai or the Bentley – aircraft all have certain parameters – and envelope – they must fly – or they won’t fly.

    For years there was a common accident among light twin engined aircraft that wags started calling the “Doctor’s Spin” – and I can tell you how it happen(s) – the pilot is turning downwind to base – or base to final – either way a 90 degree turn – he is going a bit too slow – or sees that he has to really turn tight to make the runway – he spins into the ground.

    A spin is where 1 wing stops flying before the other, and if you are high enough you can recover – (used to be a requirement for a private license)

    Point to all this is that Doctors could afford the twins but really didn’t have the experience – training – to fly them safely.

    Of course this doesn’t apply to all Drs – I am sure our “resident” would be safe ;-)

  19. >>> Point to all this is that Doctors could afford the twins but really didn’t have the experience – training – to fly them safely.

    LOL, “pretty much a self-correcting problem” is my reply.

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