AUGUSTA, Maine — Marcus Davis of Bangor, a mixed martial arts fighter, urged lawmakers to allow professional matches in Maine, but the Department of Public Safety opposed allowing the often brutal and bloody fights to be held in the state.
“I have two gyms, one in Brewer and one in Biddeford and I have fighters at both and they want to fight here in front of their friends and families,” he told lawmakers. “I know what it is like to have to fight away all the time.”
Davis said he wants to see state regulations and licensing based on the standardized rules of the Ultimate Fighting Championship. He described that organization as the “big league” of the sport that has crafted many of the rules and regulations needed to oversee the matches.
He told members of the Legislature’s Criminal Justice Committee he has fought in venues around the world and on several televised matches. He said he would like to be able to have a match in his home state. He was asked whether that is likely should the fights be allowed in the state.
“Absolutely will happen,” Davis said. “The UFC will come to Maine. I can’t say what town, but they will come here.”
The measure had strong legislative support, sponsored by Rep. John Tuttle, D-Sanford, with the support of several lawmakers, including Sen. Joe Perry, D-Bangor, Rep. Chris Greeley, R-Levant, and Sen. Bill Diamond, D-Windham.
“I have seen what this man has done and this is good for Maine,” said Public Utilities Commissioner Jack Cashman. He owns the building that houses the Davis gym in Brewer and has watched the training of young athletes at the facility.
“I think this is an economic development opportunity,” said Cashman, who served as state Commissioner of Economic Development before he was named to the PUC. “The matches I have witnessed have 10- or 11,000 fans in the stands.”
Jayson Allain, the head wrestling coach at Foxcroft Academy, told lawmakers they should pass legislation allowing the matches both as a sporting opportunity and to help the state’s economy.
“We can wrap a vacation around watching a competition,” he said. “We can bring a lot of people to the state if we do this right.”
But, the proposal was opposed by the Baldacci administration. The measure would have the Department of Public Safety license the events, but Deputy Chief of the Maine State Police Bob Williams testified against the bill.
“The legislation would have the state of Maine officially sanctioning events that are bound to be bloody and brutal and potentially deadly to the persons involved in the fighting,” he said. “The department strongly believes that the state of Maine ought to stay clear of endorsing, through its laws, such vicious events.”
Williams told lawmakers the measure, as drafted, has no ongoing oversight of the fighting events by any public agency. He said the legislation also raises several concerns, including a lack of definitions and said that the language is so vague it appears to allow children to participate in the fighting events.
“And the department thinks to situate the regulation of such no-holds-barred fights in the department would be ill-advised,” he said. When asked where it should be regulated should lawmakers want to allow the events, Williams said he was not sure.
Rep. Matthew Peterson, D-Rumford, told the panel he has submitted legislation that would allow the matches, but would regulate them within the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation.
That measure has not been scheduled for a public hearing.