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Promoters will now have to pay for referees, ringside doctors in Tennessee

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Combat sports in Tennessee will be regulated for the foreseeable future after a scare earlier this year.

New legislation was passed this week to extend the Tennessee Athletic Commission until 2017, according to a press release sent out Thursday. The commission was in danger of being disbanded July 1, rendering MMA and boxing in the state unregulated and possibly even illegal.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Mike Bell, eliminated obsolete provisions in the Tennessee Athletic Commission Act without changing the purpose of overseeing combat sports in the state, according to the release. There is one caveat: the promoter must now pay out of its own pocket for things like referees and ringside doctors.

The Tennessee Athletic Commission was in financial dire straits before this year, put into wind down and scheduled to be terminated. The new legislation, which was put into effect when Gov. Bill Haslam signed it into law May 4, extends the TAC until June 30, 2017.

"Changes needed to be made to the Tennessee Athletic Commission in order to create a better-functioning commission," Bell said. "These updates ensure that boxing and mixed martial arts events will continue to be held in Tennessee."

The UFC did extend its hand to assist Tennessee. With the commission on its last legs, the UFC worked to put together an event in Nashville this summer. UFC Fight Night 74 will take place at Bridgestone Arena on Aug. 8 and air on FOX Sports 1. The UFC has not visited the state since 2012.

Sources told in February that the Tennessee Athletic Commission only made a profit if large events -- like the UFC or major boxing -- came to the state. Medium-sized events only break even and small events actually lose money. That's par for the course for state regulatory bodies. California State Athletic Commission executive officer Andy Foster echoed a similar sentiment at a media day last month.

Bell's new legislation will make some changes to the TAC. Commission members must vacate their positions by Jan. 1, 2016 and five new members will be appointed for new terms. Current members can be reappointed.

Also, the commission will no longer employ a director to oversee the day-to-day operations, which is counter to the structure in most states. Instead, the Tennessee Department of Commerce and Insurance's Division of Regulatory Boards director will oversee administrative functions.

On top of that, any money collected by the commission must be carried forward to cover future commission expenses. No money from the general fund can be used to cover commission expenses, per the release.

The last point will be important to the UFC: a promoter must cover physical examinations and blood tests as well as the costs of referees, ringside doctors, a neurologist and an ambulance.

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