Battle brewing on cage fights

By Kevin Wilson: Freedom New Mexico

From all indications, city groups may have a fight about fights.

The Clovis Civic Center policy committee discussed allowing contact sports at the city-owned center in October’s meeting, and more discussion is planned for Monday’s meeting.

The contact sport in question is mixed martial arts, and MarkAnthony Baca of Clovis is trying to get fighting events at the Civic Center.
Mixed martial arts, Baca said, is a combat sport where two fighters go at each other until one cannot reasonably defend himself or is placed in a submission hold.

Clovis Mayor David Lansford is one of the sport’s critics, and he wanted it put on the policy committee’s agenda so there could be a clear policy for or against it.

“I think mixed martial arts is an activity that is a destructive activity for participants and spectators alike,” Lansford said. “I think as a society, we’re becoming more violent. This activity certainly doesn’t help to rectify that problem.”

Proponents respond that the sport is regulated through the New Mexico Athletic Commission, Baca said, and several measures are in place to prevent serious injuries.

“The fights are safe for the fans, safe for the spectators,” said Baca. “I’ve never seen anybody go to the hospital (from an MMA event).” He noted safety measures include 4-oz. padded gloves and groin protectors, and fighters cannot strike opponents with knees or elbows.

“It’s a fairly new sport,” Baca said. “I don’t think that people, unless they’re involved with it, really know what’s going on.”
Clovis City Attorney Dave Richards said the state’s involvement does help with credibility.

“It’s becoming a regulated activity instead of a free-for-all type of thing, so that’s certainly encouraging,” Richards said. “The promotional stuff makes you think it’s a gladiator sport.”

Those are Lansford’s concerns. While he objects to the sport wholeheartedly, he would want any city compromise on mixed martial arts to include measures such as banning alcohol sales, instituting a spectator age limit, and levels of liability insurance beyond normal recommendations.

Lansford said the City Commission could act on any measure with or without action from the policy committee, but doing things at a committee level helps everything run more smoothly.

Richards said regulation would come under the scope of Global Crossing, which operates the center and would be responsible for any necessary screening and rule enforcement.

“The discussion is (whether the center is) a suitable venue,” said Neil McMullin, the center’s general manager. “Is that the kind of event they want to have out there, or is it more suitable for another facility?”

A mixed martial arts event was held at the Curry County Fairgrounds in June, and Baca has operated several others at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

Mixed martial arts in Tucumcari does get associated with a fatal shooting before a Feb. 1 Desert Xtreme MMA event, which led to the event’s cancellation and the arrest of Jim Burleson of Los Lunas.

Baca said he knew Burleson and Jason Pacheco, the shooting victim, and that the shooting was related to a prior argument between the two and not due to the event. He noted he has managed several fighting events since the shooting without complaint.

With state regulation behind him, Baca said he sees no reason for the city to ban a legal event.

“I pay my fee just like everybody else,” Baca said.