Late last week, Wyoming become the 46th state to sanction mixed martial arts, after Gov. Matt Mead signed legislation into law. But tucked away in the bill -- HB0087 -- was the more interesting news to come out of the development, that the state is set to become the first state to have a mixed martial arts-only commission to regulate the sport.
Most states that have sanctioned MMA over the past few years have added the duties to the work of their existing athletic or boxing commission, but Wyoming has no such regulators, so instead decided to install a new board solely devoted to MMA.
Gov. Mead will appoint three members to the commission, whose duties will take effect on July 1. At that time, rules and regulations will be drafted, with input from surrounding state sanctioning bodies.
The bill forming the group sailed through the legislative process and was passed by a 58-0 vote in the House of Representatives, with two voters being excused.
Wyoming's sanctioning leaves only New York, Connecticut, Vermont and Alaska as the final holdouts to regulation, though while the first three sanction boxing, Alaska has no existing athletic regulatory body in place.
While Wyoming is the least populated state in the U.S. (568,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau), UFC vice president of government and regulatory affairs Marc Ratner previously told the state's Casper Star-Tribune that the UFC would be willing to bring a Fight Night-level event there.
The commission will eventually be funded by a five percent tax on total gross receipts from MMA events. Local promoters say about 20 events are held in the state annually, but have voiced a concern that the tax could shut down some of those events.
While the state isn't known as a hotbed, it hosted UFC 6 back in July 1995 under the original UFC ownership team. The most notable fighter ever to come out of Wyoming is former UFC middleweight No. 1 contender and recently signed Strikeforce star Nate Marquardt. The former Olympic wrestling gold medalist Rulon Gardner, who competed one time in MMA, is also from the state.
The legislation was initiated by state Rep. Bryan Pederson, a Cheyenne Repubilcan who reportedly practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Muay Thai.