by Al Yu – MMAWeekly.com
Recently, CBS’ “60 Minutes” aired a segment covering MMA’s increasing popularity called “A New Kind of Fight”. The segment provided a positive view on the fast growing sport and featured IFL coaches Renzo Gracie and Pat Miletich as well as UFC President Dana White. MMAWeekly previously documented the misleading statements that have been made by Zuffa in regards to the history of the UFC and the rules and sanctioning of Mixed Martial Arts in general. Although the CBS segment was well received and garnered high ratings, the same factually incorrect statements were presented.

Nick Lembo, who is the Deputy Attorney General of the state of New Jersey and the Counsel to the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board (NJSACB), recently sent CBS News a letter to address the incorrect statements. Mr. Lembo appeared on MMAWeekly’s SoundOff Radio last Friday to talk about the “60 Minutes” segment and MMA in New Jersey.

“It was a good program I saw on ’60 Minutes’. I thought it was great to get some mainstream media coverage for Mixed Martial Arts,” said Lembo. “It was great to see Renzo [Gracie], Pat Miletich and Matt Hughes. I just had some issues with the history of the UFC and MMA; in particular, Dana White taking credit for placing a lot of the rules and regulations in the sport and selling those rules to the athletic commissions and to the public in order to make the sport more sanctionable and more marketable.”

UFC President Dana White has done a lot for the sport and helped push MMA into mainstream exposure. However, the credit given to White for establishing rules and regulations in MMA is a common misconception.

“It’s nothing personal with Dana White. I don’t really know Dana White and I don’t think I’ve even had a conversation with him,” added the Deputy Attorney General. “I think he’s done great things for the sport and great things for the UFC. Larry Hazzard deserves credit because he was the first major state athletic commissioner to take a look at the sport and to do a couple of shows…he passed rules which basically led to the acceptance of the sport in over 20 states today.”

Although MMA in New Jersey hasn’t received the attention like it has in Nevada and California, the NJSACB continues to support the sport and has recently focused on amateur fighters. “I think Mixed Martial Arts is a great sport; I think it’s grown by leaps and bounds. We just started an amateur program in New Jersey that’s used in 3 or 4 other jurisdictions right now. We had probably about 15 shows already with about 30 fights on each show. It’s nice to see the amateurs from our program step it up into the pro shows in New Jersey and other states and having some success too.”

Apparently establishing rules and regulations at the amateur level of MMA isn’t exclusive to New Jersey. After Mr. Lembo’s appearance on the radio show, a Nevada promoter called in to share the news that he helped amateur regulations get sanctioned in Las Vegas.

The use of elbows in MMA is a heavily debated topic. “Elbows in New Jersey…we don’t have a problem with them and we don’t foresee taking them out,” commented Lembo. “What we do see with some of the promoters is that they ask that the elbow strikes be limited, or be removed, or only utilized in their local title matches. We’ll always let the promoters make the rules stricter than what’s allowed, mainly for insurance purposes.”

Recently, changes were made by the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board regarding weigh-ins for championship fights. According to the new rule, title holders in boxing, kickboxing, and MMA will be required to weigh in 30 days before a scheduled fight and again one week before the match. Lembo explained more regarding the new change.

“We’re not saying it’s a perfect solution… We haven’t had any major problems in MMA and that’s great. With a few big name championship boxing matches… the TV networks are purchasing a championship fight and the venue usually pays millions of dollars to host the event. Because people are missing weigh-ins, it’s not for a title anymore and it’s upsetting some of the venue operators and the television networks who thought they were broadcasting a championship match. That’s one aspect from the business side but it’s also a health and safety issue. [Fighters are] dropping too much weight too quickly and it’s not healthy,” explained Lembo.

With the sport achieving new heights, it will be interesting to see how things develop and what effect efforts such as New Jersey’s weigh-in restrictions will have on the future of the sport.