As a Michigan resident and a combat sports enthusiast this has been a story that I've been following rather closely. 44 year-old James Weber of Flint, MI was named the new chairman of the Michigan Unarmed Combat Commission which oversees boxing and MMA regulation throughout the state.
Mike Brudenell of the Detroit Free Press caught up with Mr Weber and was able to ask him some questions:
Q: Why did you accept the job?
A: I'm tired of seeing many of our former fight idols destitute and in a state of poverty. These people didn't become champions overnight. They had to work hard at it for years. I want to make sure our current and future fighters have sufficient health insurance in the ring and opportunities after retirement. Safety is an important issue for me. As an emergency physician in a Level 1 trauma center and longtime ring doctor, I know about head injuries firsthand. I want to improve our research into boxing and how we can help fighters.
Q: You had some club fights. Why did you climb into the ring?
A: I wanted to taste leather. My dream was to one day sit in the chair as commissioner, but I wanted to know what it was like to fight -- get inside the head of these warriors. I got my butt whipped, but I learned a lot.
Q: Boxing and MMA: different sports with different fans. Can you wear two hats?
A: My goal is to do what I can to represent and advance both sports, without either taking precedence. I want to see boxing resurrected in this state -- seduce the big fights we once had at Olympia, Cobo and Joe Louis Arena back to the Detroit area. I also see pro MMA shows here as a silver lining for Michigan. I think they can be a home run economically for the state.
It's very early, but he is at least saying the right things and seems to be coming from a good place. He does understand the benefits of MMA but I do think he needs someone with a better understanding of the MMA game to give him help. We'll just have to see what happens with the state and if they're able to attract bigger shows to the state and help grow the sport. Most of Michigan is in a bad way and any influx of money, even if just from an occasional major MMA show would be a major help.