State shouldn't cash in on extreme combat
The Legislature's approach to extreme combat, also known as ultimate fighting, is close to the ultimate in hypocrisy.
How can the state initially prohibit an activity because of the violence involved, then turn around and create exceptions so that it can profit from a soft-core version of the same activity?
That's the case with House Bill 3223, proposed by Rep. Jerry Chang, D-2nd (Hilo), who believes the state should capitalize on the millions of dollars potentially generated by fights here.
No, it shouldn't.
Despite international popularity, ultimate fighting that features a "no-rules combat" style of fighting that allows chokeholds and weapons had been already banned by the state. But last May, Gov. Linda Lingle granted an exemption, which allowed fight promoters to get around the ban if they provided referees, a doctor, a guarantee of fighters' safety and a $500 fee.
True, some regulation is better than nothing, but the exemption all but neutered the ban.
A better route this year would have been to repeal the exemption, particularly considering that young people are copying the violence promoted in the fighting. So far, the Legislature has blocked another bill that would have done just that.
What's left is Chang's bill, which still bans the hard-core ultimate fighting, but wrongly allows for a new kind of fighting under a changed moniker — "mixed-martial arts."
Mixed-martial arts may be "ultimate fighting lite," but it still resembles an all-out brawl, with kicking, punching and grappling. You can even kick a man when he's down. It makes boxing look like a tea party.
Chokeholds and the use of weapons are still banned, but the level of violence remains so high, it's hard to imagine how a newly formed mixed-martial arts commission can effectively regulate these events.
But the real hypocrisy here is in the unique and prohibitive licensing fees the state wants from promoters:
Three percent of the first $50,000 in tickets, with another 5 percent for sales after that; another 5 percent for TV and Internet revenues; and another 5 percent of pay-per-view and DVD sales.
That's on top of the state's 4 percent excise tax and any other income taxes that might be owed.
Small-fry local promoters, once happy with the governor's old exemption, now cry foul and say only the big-fish international promoters will be able to stay afloat.
But don't cry for them. Cry for the legislators who want a cut of the action and can't see that making the state a partner in this violent activity is just wrong.