After ranking fourth in the nation for the number of Mixed Martial Arts or MMA events held statewide in 2011, Kentucky has seen a significant drop in the number of fight cards this past year.
Officials say the drop is likely due to economic factors but some say new regulations enacted by the Kentucky Boxing and Wrestling Authority–which has regulated the sport since 2007–are the cause.
Last year, Kentucky’s 81 events ranked only behind California, Ohio and Texas. In 2012, there were only 54 events.
In 2009 there were 91 events and 2011 had 82 events, according to records from the KBWA.
Kentucky MMA writer Gary Thomas says the regulations enacted earlier this year now require annual blood screenings for amateur fighters, who make up a majority of the licensed athletes. Previously, only professional fighters were required to be tested annually, he said.
“The big thing is probably financially. Tests run anywhere from $60 to $100 depending on where you’re at and what lab you go to and its really thinned out the total fighter pool in the state,” he said.
This year, of Kentucky’s 766 licensed fights, nearly 84 percent are amateur.
Thomas said amateur fighters don’t get paid much–if at all–to compete in events.
“They get their expenses covered, whether it be gas money or hotel money, if they’re lucky. But the dedication level to get your blood work and stuff done has not been there for new fighters that I’ve seen,” he said.
But Thomas also said new regulations require that fights now be held in cages and not boxing rings, which officials believe has improved the quality of the fights. Further, the purpose of the new regulations are to promote the safety of the fighters and promoters.
Both KBWA officials and Thomas agree that attendance numbers at the events held in Kentucky haven’t waned and interest in the sport remains high. Kentucky’s 54 events held this year may still keep Kentucky in the top ten state’s for events held, said Thomas.
The KBWA receives 5 percent of ticket sales, but maintains a small staff one full-time employee and one part-time employee.