The following is an interview on www.ProFighting-fans.com
between editor, Scott Dryden, and Bernie Profato from the Ohio State Athletic Commission.
The reason I like this interview is because, I feel that the Commissioner from Ohio states allot of facts that we, The CSC,
express about Amateur Mixed Martial Arts being Sanctioned in those States that do not Regulate it.
It also touches on the Blood Testing issue, which the CSC has taken the steps and there have yet been no signs from the
other organizations in the State to mandate the same type of Regulation. I REALLY hope that this changes.
As of January 1, 2010, the CSC will be enforcing it's Blood Testing on all Amateur Fighters competing in CSC Sanctioned
Events. This is a huge step that should have been enforced years ago and we are glad to be making the first step towards
Blood Testing for Amateur MMA Fighters in Ohio
The other hot topic is blood testing in Ohio for amateurs which was instituted in July of this year. I hit on this topic and much more with Bernie Profato in what turned out to
be a lively and entertaining discussion. The outspoken Profato is passionate about his job and the safety of combative athletes in Ohio. In his tenure he has created a
standard-bearer of regulatory bodies in the sport of MMA.
Below is part of my conversation with Profato:
SD- Ohio is now requiring testing which was previously only required by professionals. Speak about how that came about.
BF- We have wanted it for a while. We held off for a while because boxing wasn’t doing it and with the costs associated as amateur fighters do not get paid. We were getting
calls from fighters and their wives/girlfriends saying hey, you are not protecting my husband/boyfriend and you are not protecting me. The fighters stated they didn’t want to
go home and tell their kids they have Hepatitis B or C or HIV because my opponent had it. In reality there is far more contact in MMA than boxing. The ABC (Association of
Boxing Commissions) is pushing that all states have this testing at both the amateur and professional levels. The long-lasting results of something happening without the
testing would be much harder to get over. We have had some feedback regarding the costs (editor’s note-$100) of the testing but overall the responses have been very
positive. Like Dana White said about the one promoter, if you cannot afford the requirements then open up a doughnut shop instead of being a MMA promoter. Honestly
rules are put in place in society for the 3-5% that violates it. The fact is 97% of the fighters wanted this in place because they know they are clean.
SD- Ohio is viewed as one of the most professional commissions in the nation and as one of the most stringent. Speak about your philosophy.
BP- I really don’t like the word stringent. The fact is we go by the rules. Once you start making exceptions then where do you stop. Pennsylvania adopted their own amateur
rules which is their business, they can do whatever they want over there, which includes two minute rounds in their first five fights. Well what do you do with a guy like Phil
Davis who is the NCAA wrestling champion? Give him two minutes to showcase his skills? So they made an exception with Davis. So from there what do they do with other
wrestlers? I’ve learned that if you just treat everybody the same it will work. When the UFC/WEC comes in here they asked what do we have to do to meet the requirements.
They are some of the greatest groups to work with. They do not try to get exceptions. The fact is the WEC has stricter rules than we do. We give the WEC our rules for
entrance themes which includes no ethnic slurs or profanity and they tell us there will be now worries there. If they have it or do it in an interview after the fight the WEC
takes their bonus money. If they lose the fight and do it the WEC takes half their purse from them. I strongly believe the majority of the people involved in this sport; fighters,
managers, promoters and trainers want consistency. When I first took over in September of 2004, a boxing promoter stood up in a meeting and stated he was planning on
getting out of the sport. He stated that before I arrived the only square thing in boxing was the ring. He went on to state he didn’t like everything I was doing but knew it was
going to be a consistent and level playing field so he was staying in. The bottom line is we want to see the sport succeed and I think it has here in Ohio. If we were
overbearing I don’t think we would have had the amount of success we have had nor the number of licensed fighters. We are number one in the country in terms of licensed
SD- As you are well aware, amateur fighters in the Cincinnati area participate in Indiana which currently does not sanction amateur fights. Both Kentucky and Ohio have
taken the stance of suspending fighters for 60 days if they compete in unsanctioned fights. Speak about your reasoning on the suspension.
BP- This truly isn’t something I invented. This came from Oklahoma. Joe Miller and Oklahoma were having a lot of problems with fighters traveling and fighting while
suspended. The unfortunate incident that happened in South Carolina (a pro debut fighter died following his fight), if that young man had been in Ohio he would still be alive
today. The reason we suspend fighters who compete in NSF‘s (non-sanctioned fights) is we truly don’t know what the results are. The results are put in by a promoter or a
group there, someone other than someone commissioned by the state. We were considering lowering the amount of days until the unfortunate incident occurred in South
Carolina. Joe Miller, Nick Lembo (New Jersey Athletic Commission) and I decided to take a firm stand. Nick takes a different approach where he makes fighters take pro
medicals if they come from a NSF fight. Some of the stories I have heard about promoters putting down that their fighter won when they didn’t, how can we trust that? How
can we determine the severity of a loss? Oklahoma, with the backing of the Ringside Physicians Association, adopted the maximum suspension for a knockout, which is 60
days and 30 days for a TKO. Our number one goal is the safety of fighters who compete in Ohio. So we decided to treat everyone that competes in NSF’s as if they were
knocked out. This will give them 60 days to recuperate. We don’t know what truly happened. This will do two things Scott. First, fighters, if it isn’t sanctioned then don’t fight.
There are consequences for fighting in non-sanctioned fights. Secondly, it will wake the states up. That is what Nick Lembo and I commissioned to the states at the ABC
convention. I told an Oklahoma newspaper that you cannot ban the sport because it will just go underground. You just have to regulate the amateurs so you don’t have
those kind of mismatches. The kid in the fight in South Carolina had four NSF fights. That means he was never in a sanctioned fight. He had one win which was in Virginia
which is not only the worst regulated the United States but possibly the world. They have no doctors there. Their amateurs sign a release which states no insurance is
provided, no physicals or anything like that. They don’t even check hand wraps. How can that happen? Those are the kind of things that can kill the sport. The bottom line is
our rules are not against the fighter in any way. The rules are to protect the fighters. In Wisconsin they had four town hall meetings to get their regulations ready by
September. They adopted 99% of Ohio’s rules. I’m proud to work with their legislatures to get this in place. I’ll give you an example of a fighter out of Minnesota. This guy
fought, I believe his name is Shaine Emmons, his first amateur fight in Minnesota which is a regulated state. He loses in the first round as he doesn’t answer the bell for the
second. So they give him 30 days off due to a TKO loss. His next fight they let him fight professionally with only three minutes of cage time! It gets worse. He gets beat via
armbar so there is no suspension. He comes back again less than 30 days later and gets knocked out. These are all sanctioned fights which wasn’t handled correctly by
Minnesota. The scary part is he comes back six days later and fights in Iowa. The guy is on a 60 days suspension and needs medical clearance. Iowa lets him fight as an
amateur six days later where he gets knocked out in the first round. The next night he goes to Wisconsin and gets knocked out in the first round again. Wisconsin is taking
this story around as the reason why this sport has to be regulated. As much as we regulate this we wouldn’t have caught this guy fighting on back to back nights. However,
he had the 60 day suspension, which, if Wisconsin was regulating the sport, they would have caught. These are some of the things we are looking out for. Nick quoted me
while speaking to the convention, even the animal kingdom protects its young. In all reality we should be regulating the amateurs first before they become pros. We
suspended a guy recently who is 0-8 due to lack of skills. That is the great thing about the national ID, we can keep track of guys and create a safer sport. We discussed
Indiana since it’s close to the Cincinnati area. I think Andy Means is going to do a wonderful job. He is going to bring a whole new look compared to the old guard that was in
play in Indiana. He is a gung-ho guy who is looking to promote safety. He has said Indiana will probably adopt most of Ohio’s rules. I’m not trying to pat myself nor the Ohio
commission on the back. The fact is we didn’t create most of this on our own. We created a MMA Summit that helped put all of this together. We gave the MMA world what
they wanted. Hopefully by October 1 st Indiana will be regulating the amateurs.
Getting back to the kid that passed away in South Carolina. He was 1-3 and in his last two NSF fights he was stopped in under a minute. You don’t know if this guy was
unconscious during those fights. Nobody knows because there was no commission there to report on it. In Ohio we have a rule that if you want to turn pro you have to have
at least 5 amateur fights with a winning record. If fighters go to Indiana or Kentucky to obtain pro status they may not qualify to be a pro in Ohio. If you go 3-0 or 3-1 or
something like that, we will take a look at your background and see what direction we can go.
SD- I spoke with Andy (Means) not long ago. I think the direction he is heading will be good for MMA in the state of Indiana.
BP- Absolutely. I’m telling you this guy has it going on. You saw what has been going on over there. He is right on the ball and will make Indiana one of the best states in due
SD- Speak about how you govern match-ups.
BP- There isn’t a fight posted by a promoter on the fight card that I do not look at. We are not going to let an 0-2 guy fight a 2-0 guy. When promotions have their club title
fights, we are not going to let a guy without a winning record in at least four fights compete for a title. If the promoter cannot put credibility in their titles then we will do it for
them. We are not going to let a debut fighter compete against someone with more than 3 fights. If they have 3 fights then they have to have a loss.
SD- Speak about the growth of MMA in Ohio.
BP- I’m ecstatic about the growth of the sport in Ohio. I know the UFC is ecstatic about it as well. We were the first Midwestern area they came to due to the popularity and
the standards that were in place. We are number one in national ID’s issued in the US. We have issued approximately 3,700 national ID cards. There is only me, a secretary
and a part time secretary in this office. I take some of the stuff home with me. I send our inspectors information regarding how we can be more consistent. As I tell the guys,
we are number one. It’s more difficult to stay there than it was to get there. We have to continue to work harder and not let down on our skills. Second to us is New Jersey
with about 1,400 national ID’s issued. I was a former boxing referee and I’ve refereed 40 some world title fights. When I interviewed for this job in June of 2004 one of the
commissioners asked me what I knew about MMA. I said what the hell is that? He said Mixed-Martial Arts. I said what is that? He said it’s where they fight in the cage. I said
you are kidding me! He asked what I was going to do about it because they felt it would be coming to Ohio. I said you know I come from a softball background. What I’ve
learned is you have to get in with these people and learn about their sport. When I got hired in September of 2004, they had two trial events in the state. When someone
would call me and ask if we had the sport I would say yes. Of course they would ask where the rules are. I would direct them to the Nevada Athletic Commission’s site. I
called the summit in December of 2004 then went to Nevada to discuss what they do. They stated at the time it was strictly a professional sport. I said wait a minute, that is
like having Major League Baseball without having the minor leagues! How can you have pro football without high school or college football? It just can happen. I told them we
were going to go back and develop an amateur program. I wanted to create a feeder system that was regulated. Now people are calling me for advice (laughs).
Honestly I learned from the guys in the sport. Have we made mistakes? Yes, I’ve made a few my friend, but we pick ourselves up and move forward. I truly believe Nick
Lembo is the most knowledgeable guy in the entire sport. I’ve learned from him. He is the guru of MMA. The bottom line is we went from four shows in 2004 to 148 shows last
year. That tells the story of the growth of MMA in Ohio. We have not had one unsanctioned event in the state of Ohio since 2005. A lot of the credibility goes to our
inspectors and the fans, fighters and everyone involved in the sport. They truly don’t want unregulated shows going on. They know that hurts the sport. I have to say our
inspectors are fantastic as well. In my dealings in the sport, from the Dana Whites to the Scott Drydens and anyone else I’ve talked to who are involved in the sport, I have
the utmost respect for them because they have respect for the sport. Just like in the case of the newly established cruiserweight division in the amateur ranks, if it works we
will keep it. I believe without the division it is really tough on guys who weigh 215 to 220.
SD- Speak about the discipline and respect aspect of the sport that many people do not appreciate.
BP- It goes back to the Oriental tradition of martial arts. There are four things that it brings: 1. Respect for the sport 2. Self Respect 3. Respect for your opponent 4. Self
Discipline. If you cannot bring all four of those to the state of Ohio, then don’t come to the state of Ohio.
SD- Thanks Bernie. I think that sums it up. Good luck in the future and hope to talk to you another time.
BP- Thanks Scott. I enjoyed the conversation.