Attorney General's Opinion
Attorney General, Richard Blumenthal
December 8, 2008
James Krayeske, Jr., Chairman
State Boxing Commission
955 Bunker Hill Road Ext.
Watertown, CT 06795
Dear Chairman Krayeske:
You have requested our advice on whether Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) events can be held in Connecticut under existing boxing laws. Our answer is such events are currently illegal in Connecticut and legislation would be necessary to allow them.
MMA is a full contact combat sport that allows a wide variety of fighting techniques derived primarily from martial arts. MMA allows the use of striking and grappling techniques, both while standing and on the ground.
Boxing is authorized in Connecticut pursuant to Chapter 532a of the General Statutes, Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-143i, et seq. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-143j (a) provides that “[t]he commissioner (Department of Public Safety) shall have sole control of and jurisdiction over all amateur and professional boxing and sparring matches conducted or given within the state by any person or persons, club, corporation or association . . ..”1 Conn. Gen. Stat. § 29-143j (e) authorizes the commissioner to adopt regulations in accordance with Chapter 54 as he deems necessary and desirable for the conduct of boxing matches.
There is no reference in the Connecticut boxing statutes or regulations to MMA. However, the boxing regulations expressly prohibit the type of fighting techniques used by MMA. “Boxer” is defined as “a contestant in the sport or skill of fighting with the fist.” Regs. Conn. State Agencies § 29-143j-1 (d). The regulations further set forth various major and minor fouls which may form the basis for a referee to disqualify the offending boxer and award the bout or any round to the boxer who has been fouled. Among such fouls are hitting an opponent who is down or who is rising from being down; using a knee or elbow against an opponent; hitting with the inside of the hand, butt of the hand or the writs; backhand blows; wrestling or roughing at the ropes; deliberately striking at the part of the body over the kidneys and use of a pivot blow or rabbit punch. See, Regs. Conn. Stat. Agencies § 29-143j-68. All these fighting techniques appear to be permissible in MMA, and any one of them would disqualify any participating MMA fighter under Connecticut’s boxing regulations.
Prize fighting, unless permitted by Chapter 532a of the General Statutes, is illegal in Connecticut. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-200 provides:
Any person who is principal or second in any prize fight in this state shall be imprisoned not more than five years or fined not more than one thousand dollars or both. A contest in which blows are struck which are intended or calculated to stun, disable or knock out either of the contestants, or in which either contestant is counted out or otherwise declared defeated because of failure to resume the contest within a certain time, shall be deemed a prize fight within the meaning of this section. The provisions of this section shall not apply to boxing exhibitions held or conducted under the laws of this state, or to wrestling bouts or amateur boxing exhibitions held under the provisions of section 29-143j, or under the supervision of any school, college or university having an academic course of study or of the recognized athletic association connected with such school, college or university.
Similarly, it is illegal to witness or aid prize fights not authorized by Chapter 532a of the General Statutes. Conn. Gen. Stat. § 53-201 states:
Any person who is present at any prize fight, to aid, abet or assist therein, or give countenance thereto, or who aids or encourages such fight in this state, without being present thereat, shall be imprisoned not more than two years or fined not more than five hundred dollars or both. The provisions of this section shall not apply to boxing exhibitions held or conducted under the laws of this state, or to wrestling bouts, or to amateur boxing exhibitions held under the provisions of or section 29-143j the supervision of any school, college or university having an academic course of study or of the recognized athletic association connected with such school, college or university.
Because the current boxing regulations prohibit the fighting techniques used in MMA, and there is no statutory authority for MMA, MMA events cannot take place in Connecticut without a legislative change.
Very truly yours,
1 There are exceptions for various “boxing and sparring matches held under the supervision of any school, college or university having an academic course of study or of the recognized athletic association connected with such school, college or university or amateur boxing and sparring matches held under the auspices of any athletic association that has been determined by the commissioner to be capable of ensuring the health and safety of the participants . . . .”