CM Punk’s presence on the UFC roster is a whole lot of things. It’s controversial, highlighted by two years of non-stop debate. It’s likely going to be a strong cash grab, which will be highlighted by any pay-per-view buyrate higher than 300,000 or so. It’s a public relations smash, highlighted by how much CM Punk content we’ve been putting out over the last week or so.
But let’s ask a straightforward question…is it legal?
Strictly speaking, according to Ohio law, no. It isn’t.
According to a report by Erik Magraken on the Combat Sports Law blog, Punk’s upcoming fight against Mickey Gall at UFC 203 (which goes down in Cleveland, Ohio) violates state law. Specifically, the Ohio Administrative Code section 3773-7-20(E), which reads:
“A mixed martial arts fighter will be required to have a minimum of five recorded amateur bouts with a winning record prior to being permitted to compete as a professional mixed martial arts fighter. They may appeal to the executive director or Ohio athletic commission to have this waived.”
That’s a clause that is actually fairly common around the United States. A number of states (including Punk’s home state of Illinois) dictate a fighter cannot compete in a professional MMA bout unless they have first competed at an amateur level no fewer than five times. That doesn’t apply to all states, mind you, but it does apply to Punk competing in Ohio at UFC 203.
It’s a rule crafted to prevent promoters from sending ill-equipped fighters into potentially dangerous fights, and also functions to protect fighters from commissions’ own incompetence. It’s not uncommon for commissions outside of Nevada, New Jersey and California to have no clue what they’re doing, and simply approve any fight that comes over their desk (Tim Sylvia vs. Mariusz Pudzianowski being a great example). A blanket policy like that makes sure that fighters have SOME level of proficiency before stepping into the cage against any level of opposition.
So how is this fight happening? Well, the Ohio Commission gave him a waiver on that rule for the following reason (via Bloody Elbow):
“We felt it was like the Brock Lesnar situation, that there’s enough experience, and trust the UFC would have also ensured that he met the qualifications to compete as a Professional. We have permitted others with past experience to turn Professional. That’s why the exemption was put in the rule. We feel that this is a competitive matchup.”
That’s obviously not an apples-to-apples comparison, given the fact that Brock has a legitimate NCAA wrestling resume, but they are right. The UFC made sure to bring in a relatively inexperienced fighter in Gall to put together a matchup that makes sense on paper. This isn’t like the UFC setting up a fight between CM Punk and Stephen Thompson!
Punk fights this Saturday at UFC 203. We’ll have you covered with coverage, of course!
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