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CSAC hosting stakeholder meeting with hopes of listening to needs of fighters

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Andy Foster wants MMA fighters to know that the California State Athletic Commission is a resource for them.
Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

The California State Athletic Commission (CSAC) is holding a stakeholder meeting next week and is hoping for a significant turnout of MMA fighters.

CSAC executive officer Andy Foster told MMA Fighting on Thursday that the gathering, which will be held July 27 in Cerritos, Calif., is designed to open up a discussion with fighters, find out their needs and see how the commission can help them.

“We want the fighters to know this is all about them,” Foster said. “I’m not being stupid about that. I spend a lot of my time trying to think of ways that I could help them. We’ve gotta know what they’re feeling, what they think.”

Foster said the meeting is open to everyone involved in combat sports, from promoters to to coaches to managers. But CSAC is hoping to communicate with fighters directly. On the agenda for the meeting are discussions on the controversial, new Unified Rules of MMA; the altered scoring criteria; CSAC’s 10-point plan to combat weight cutting; and concussions.

There will also be talk of expanding CSAC’s boxer pension fund to MMA athletes. At the end, there will be an open discussion between stakeholders and the commission. Foster, CSAC chairman John Carvelli and legendary referee John McCarthy will be among those in attendance.

Foster said he particularly wants to discuss the new rule for a grounded fighter, which has not been adopted in every state, and how the Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports (ABC) rules and regulations and medical committees came to the new rule. He’s also hoping for a “lively discussion” about the difference between a 10-9 and 10-8 round.

While commission meetings across the country are open to the public and public comment, it is rare for MMA fighters to communicate directly with commissioners and commission directors. In many cases, fighters get information about regulation second hand, from promoters or other sources.

Foster, who was a pro MMA fighter himself, believes the athletes need a seat at the table. He said he was partially inspired by a column longtime MMA manager Alex Davis wrote for MMAjunkie earlier this year. Davis called out the commissions for not taking an active enough role for fighters, especially when it comes to contracts with promoters.

“Athletic commissions should be looking at things like promotions who lock fighters into lengthy contracts, with little or no exit possibility, but at the same time no guarantee whatsoever to the fighter of when and how many times they will fight,” Davis wrote. “I heard the term ‘industry specific’ to describe this. This is an area athletic commissions simply ignore. There should be a regulation that if an event doesn’t fight a guy in a certain period of time, he is free to seek work elsewhere.”

Foster said state athletic commissions have a wide range of abilities as the official regulator of mixed martial arts and wants fighters to know that CSAC can be a resource for them on many aspects of their careers.

“I keep seeing fighters, they have different issues that they’re always talking about,” Foster said. “They’ve not communicated to the regulators any of these problems. I deal with promoters all the time, which is appropriate. But with boxers, if they have an issue, I hear about it. I hear about it with them. I have a whole file full of arbitrations.”

Not so much with MMA fighters. Foster said he’s hoping real change can come out of the meeting, much like the CSAC weight-cutting summit held in December 2015, which led directly to the enactment of early weigh-ins.

The stakeholder meeting will be held July 27, beginning at 3 p.m. at the Sheraton Cerritos Hotel in Cerritos, Calif.

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