Two weeks ago, the future of mixed martial arts -- and all combat
sports -- in the state of Oklahoma looked bleak. Today, according
to Joe Miller, Executive Director of the Oklahoma Professional
Boxing Commission, that prognosis appears to be much brighter.
On March 5, Miller issued a letter to promoters announcing the
suspension of all events in Oklahoma after March 31. The potential
ban was prompted because the state, which has charged a four
percent tax on all pay-per-view events since 2004, including those
held outside of Oklahoma, was being threatened with a lawsuit from
UFC to have the tax removed.
“The purpose of this letter is to inform you the Oklahoma State
Athletic Commission will not be accepting applications for event
permits for events scheduled after March 31, 2012,” it read. “The
commission is faced with an out-of-state threat that, if
successful, could greatly affect the commission’s ability to
provide for the public safety and for the health and safety of the
athletes for future events throughout Oklahoma.”
In short, without funding from pay-per-view revenue, the Oklahoma
State Athletic Commission wouldn’t be able to survive. In an email
to mmavalor.com, Miller said that the state receives approximately
$80,000 each year from UFC pay-per-views.
Things have changed since then, however. Miller told Sherdog.com on
Wednesday that he has been visiting with state legislature and has
received “verbal acknowledgements that they are going to ensure
that the commission does not dissolve.”
Miller has proposed a number of options that would allow the
commission to continue with business as usual, albeit with some new
limitations in terms of the budget.
“There will be a number of cuts. I’ve got about 25 different
scenarios of what we can do and still survive,” Miller said. “Some
of them require drastic cuts in the way we support the events with
personnel. Some of them require some increases for license fees and
some charges where we’ve never charged before, such as national MMA
IDs. ...The promoter will probably be responsible to pick up the
tab on some of the things that we have in the past such as the cost
of inspectors and things like that.
“There’s no one ingredient, no one model that we’ve settled on yet.
All of that is still to be determined as to how we’re going to do
it. It’s just going to depend on what the legislature will allow us
to do,” he said.
Although the UFC promised legal action if Oklahoma continued with
the pay-per-view law, the Las Vegas-based promotion is now working
with the commission to find an answer for its impending financial
“They’re not totally trying to can the commission and make us go
away,” Miller said. “They’re being helpful in trying to formulate
some solutions to help us build and continue.”
With the aid of the state legislature as well as the UFC, Miller is
confident that combat sports events will continue to have a place
in Oklahoma after March 31.
“Right now I’m on the verge of rescinding that particular letter
and continuing business from the indication I’ve received from some
of my state legislators,” he said. “With everybody working
together...I think we’ve got (enough) support in place that’s going
to ensure that we continue in some shape or fashion. I fully intend
not to miss a beat after March 31. It could come in May or June
this year that we may have to take another look at it and see where
we’re going. Because without adequate funds, there’s absolutely no
way we could exist and do what we’re charged to do.”
The UFC has not held an event in the Sooner State since UFC
Fight Night 19 at the Cox Convention Center in Oklahoma City on
Sept. 16, 2009. The promotion had journeyed to Oklahoma just once
before that, for UFC
4 at the Expo Square Pavilion in Tulsa, Okla., in 1994.