Document Type

Article

Abstract

The past fifteen years have seen the emergence of a new sport in America and around the world: mixed martial arts (“MMA”). MMA is an interdisciplinary combat sport whose participants engage in and combine a variety of fighting disciplines (e.g., kickboxing, wrestling, karate, jiu-jitsu, and so on) within one match. In this Article, I examine and analyze the sport’s evolution, articulate a theory of sporting legitimacy, supply a conceptual taxonomy of regulation, and highlight potential reform. More specifically, my foundational treatment proceeds as follows. I first explain the modern history and development of MMA, tracing it from its shaggy, brutish beginnings to its current incarnation. I next offer a pragmatic justification for the legitimacy and propriety of MMA, consider objections, and compare it to other sports and entertainment accepted as part of modern American life. I then review the state-based and administrative nature of MMA regulation, and identify the three conceptual categories of existing MMA regulation that are most useful in understanding the connection between legitimacy and regulatory oversight. I conclude by briefly highlighting two reform possibilities - federalization and unionization - that are of interest to industry players, reformers, and scholars.

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