The Muhammad Ali Expansion Act Bill is slowly moving through Capital Hill. It was announced today that the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protections would be holding a hearing entitled "Perspectives on Mixed Martial Arts" on November 9. The text to bill H.R. 44, Muhammad Ali Expansion Act is also to be considered during the hearing.
A list of witnesses was also announced. Among those scheduled to testify to congress are former the UFC heavyweight and light heavyweight champion, Randy Couture; the Senior Vice President of the UFC's Government and Regulatory Affairs, Marc Ratner; and the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission, Greg Sirb. Couture, who has been a vocal supporter of the bill, spoke at last year's hearing that did not examine the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act.
Despite reports that Conor McGregor might address Congress, his name wasn't amongst those listed.
H.R. 44, The Muhammad Ali Expansion Act Bill would expand the Muhammad Ali Reform Boxing Act so that mixed martial artist and other combat sports athletes would also be included under its protections. Those protections include:
1. Restrictions on coercive contracts
2. Disclosure from promoters and sanctioning bodies to fighters
3. Objective rankings
4. Prohibition on conflicts of interest between promoters, managers and sanctioning bodies.
There is some debate over how much the Ali Act has done to improve professional boxing. Many complain that the bill is never enforced, and thus does nothing to protect boxers. Others, like boxer Paulie Malignaggi, have argued that the Ali Act is one of the major reasons boxers earn more than MMA fighters.
Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R) from Oklohama's 2nd Congressional District, a former MMA fighter himself. introduced the Muhammad Ali Expansion Act earlier this year. Since the bills was introduced to the 115th Congress it has acquired 53 cosponsors - 28 Republicans and 25 Democrats.
The UFC has not been sitting idly on their hands. Records show they spent over $400,000 in 2016 lobbying against the bill. (Timothy Bissell should have more soon on how much has been spent this year on defeating the bill.) In turn, Cung Le, Nate Quarry, Jon Fitch and other fighters from the MMAFA (Mixed Martial Arts Fighters Association), have been making visits to DC to lobby in support of the bill.
While Congressional hearings are definitely a step forward for the bill, it still has a long way to go before becoming a law. First it has to pass a vote in the U.S. House of Representatives, and then has to be passed by the U.S. Senate. It it makes it through both chambers, it then goes to the President's desk to be either signed or vetoed.
For more on how a bill becomes a law: