A discussion about the Ali Act’s extension into MMA will have an important audience this week.
MMA legend Randy Couture and UFC executive Marc Ratner will be among the speakers in a hearing about the Muhammad Ali Act Expansion Act in front of a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday in Washington, D.C. The Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection is an offshoot of the House’s Committee on Energy and Commerce.
Also on the agenda as witnesses are Dr. Kristen Dams-O’Connor, the director of the Brain Injury Research Center at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York, and Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission executive director Greg Sirb.
Couture is a UFC Hall of Famer and he has been a vocal advocate for fighters’ rights since retirement. He has also had a public falling out with the UFC and president Dana White. Ratner is the UFC’s senior vice president of government and regulatory affairs and has been instrumental in getting the sport of MMA legalized in multiple states, including New York.
Last year, a bill for the Ali Act’s extension into MMA was introduced into Congress by Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-Okla.), a former MMA fighter himself. The Ali Act was enacted in boxing in 2000. The expansion has bipartisan support and multiple sponsors from both side of the political aisle.
If voted into law, the Ali Act would have a major impact on the business of mixed martial arts, bringing greater financial protections for fighters. In theory, fighters would get a greater percentage of revenue and championship belts and rankings would be regulated by sanctioning bodies — not promoters like the UFC — if the act passes.
The Ali Act Expansion has yet to be brought to vote by the House and if it passes through there, it would need to be approved by the U.S. Senate and then signed into law by President Donald Trump.
The UFC has vigorously lobbied against the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act, reportedly spending nearly a half a million dollars on lobbyists. UFC COO Lawrence Epstein has been quoted as saying that the federal government would not have a “productive role” in regulating MMA promotions and fights.
A major knock against the Ali Act in boxing is that it has rarely been enforced, despite being a federal law for nearly two decades.