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PANEL KICKS OUT EFFORT TO REGULATE KICK-BOXING BOUTS

Martial-arts advocates persuaded an interim Legislative committee Wednesday to kick out a proposal to regulate professional full-contact kick-boxing bouts in Utah.

Under the proposed legislation, participants in professional boxing, kick boxing and karate events would have been regulated by a government entity supervising all full-contact professional bouts in Utah, including boxing."Martial arts cannot be combined with boxing," said United Martial Arts Council representative Ron Heinberger in a Business, Labor and Development Interim Committee meeting Wednesday afternoon.

"The stigma of one - in my opinion - will lower what martial arts is trying to accomplish. We don't need an outside entity that doesn't know who we are and what we do to regulate us. I don't see why we've arbitrarily been pulled in to this. Why not pull in professional wrestling, which makes more money and has more injuries?"

When the committee in August entertained regulating the two fighting sports, members of the committee were originally concerned about possible injuries to a young and untrained participant in full-contact sports, said Patricia Owen, associate general counsel.

"We feel there is a participating young population getting started in kick boxing that is subject to injury and being exploited by managers," said David Robinson, director of the Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing.

"I think that we need to realize this bill is not aimed toward the teaching of martial arts, but professional matches. The Legislature has chosen to regulate boxing because of the exploitation and injuries that may occur. There is potential harm in professional full-contact sports."

Robinson said the bill was patterned after Nevada's laws concerning kick boxing. Interest in the martial arts sport in Nevada has skyrocketed in recent years, he said.

Heinberger said gambling practices in Nevada force officials to put tight regulations on Nevada's kick-boxing industry.

"But we don't have that here," he said. "This is not a big-money industry. We don't perceive a need for regulation."

The committee decided to pull all references to kick boxing in the bill. However, a commission to regulate only boxing is still being considered by the committee. The bill will be discussed in the next interim meeting.