For MMA fans and promoters planning for live fights in the state of Georgia, your 2013 may be looking a lot emptier.
Georgia Secretary of State Brian P. Kemp last week announced a temporary replacement for executive director Andy Foster, and named Secretary Steve Lindsey. At Monday’s board meeting, however, the athletic board concluded that Mr. Lindsey was not able to approve matches in the absence of Foster.
Georgia Athletic Commission Vice Chairman Rick Thompson voiced his concerns and firmly believes that Lindsey is not qualified to approve matches.
“I think we’re in an unfortunate situation,” Vice Chairman Thompson said.
“I think we need to figure out whose going to do matchmaking before we do any events, because it’s unfair to any of the promoters and any of the fighters to approve a permit and then not approve the matches or have to cancel the show because no one is matchmaking.
“I think we need to have that conversation before we start talking about any kind of permit. It’s not something I want to do in the state of Georgia, but one of the things that is our responsibility as commissioners is to protect the fighters and to protect the spectators. And unfortunately if we don’t have a qualified person making the matches, then I don’t know how we move forward.”
The Secretary of State declined to comment on the board meeting and stated how he will not respond to the commissions actions or inactions.
Former executive director Andy Foster was present at the board meeting on Monday, and before leaving for his new post in California, he helped approve matches through the remainder of 2012. Foster recommended to the board that George K. Allen should be his replacement and is more than qualified to fill his shoes.
“The problem with someone who’s not a state employee is that the commission does not direct them officially,” Vice Chairman Thompson responded. I’ve known George Allen for a while, and I agree with (Foster), he’s more than capable, but with the situation we’re in, I don’t believe we can delegate that kind of authority.
“Hopefully, I’m making myself very clear that this commissioner does not want to approve any matches until such time there is a qualified individual to operate the day-to-day-functions,” Thompson continued. “The complexity of bureaucracy that we’re talking about, having (Mr. Lindsey) work with other people. I appreciate (Mr. Lindsey’s) willingness to do that and I appreciate Mr. Allen’s willingness to do that. This all could be resolved very quickly by an appointment of a qualified individual, but my intention is to vote no on any matches because we as commissioners appointed by the governor have a certain level of responsibility to carry out the mission to protect the fighters and the public.”
Commissioner J.J. Biello believes that the Secretary of State will not appoint a permanent replacement for Andy Foster at this time, and that if the board can’t reach more of a compromise, MMA will be shut down in the state in 2013.
“If the board is worried about a permanent solution, there’s not going to be one for a while,” Commissioner Biello responded. Either we shut it down, because we’re not going to force the Secretary of State to make an appointment when he’s not ready and that’s all there is to it, or we can try to come up with some kind of compromise, which I’m trying to do.”
TUF 3 veteran and HardCore Gym owner Rory Singer showed up to the board meeting and expressed his frustration. He believes that no matter how the commission tries to spin it, there’s a clear bureaucratic failure here and that MMA’s future in Georgia looks cloudy.
“I don’t think half these people would be here unless someone said, ‘hey listen this is coming under attack’,” Singer said. “It’s not coming under attack maliciously, but the appointment of someone who can’t do his job by someone who gave someone power that won’t recognize it is obscene. What we’re saying here is we’re going to do this card, but we’re really not going to do this card because we all know that this card can’t happen because it’s not going to stay this way.
“How are we not saying that MMA, right now, is over?” Singer continued. “Whether it’s an interim thing or whether it’s a long-lasting thing, for the time being, everything that has been tabled here states that mixed martial arts has no future until somebody comes into power who actually knows what they are doing. Unfortunately, Mr. Lindsey has been put in a situation where he’s not that man.
“The man who appointed him wants nothing to do with MMA and boxing in the state of Georgia, therefore putting someone in that position that he’s going to ignore. I see that as obscene; it’s mind-boggling. It makes my brain hurt to just sit here and have this conversation with a group of intelligent men and women who don’t see this for what it is. It is a man who does not care about the sport, wanting it to go away, because it’s one less thing that he has to deal with. It’s unacceptable for all that we have grown over the past 10 years.”
At this time, the only compromise was that the commission has approved events until the end of 2012. The board decided not to approve any of the matches for the early part of 2013. Unless a compromise is reached or a permanent replacement for Foster is found at the next board meeting in December, Georgia will be without MMA next year.
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