SPRINGFIELD – The Illinois House on Monday voted to outlaw "toughman" fighting contests, saying the no-holds-barred events are difficult to regulate and monitor and could put the state at risk for lawsuits.
"It's pretty much unregulated fighting," said state Rep. Angelo "Skip" Saviano, R-Elmwood Park. "They use every means possible to beat each other up, and there are no rules."
Saviano said the state already enacted a law banning "ultimate fighting," but loopholes in that law have allowed the "toughman" fights.
David S. Palmer Arena in Danville has been the site of "toughman" events in recent years, and Lava nightclub in Champaign, formerly known as Bradley's, hosted fights on a regular basis until January 2004. The Grove Street Bar in Rantoul also had hosted them.
The House passed Saviano's legislation, SB 2251, on a vote of 94-20 Monday evening. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.
The bill limits legal fighting events in Illinois to authorized professional boxing matches; amateur fights approved by U.S. Amateur Boxing Federation or Golden Gloves; boxing and wrestling matches conducted by accredited secondary schools, colleges and universities; and bona fide kickboxing and martial arts tournaments.
The problem with unregulated "toughman" fights is they do not always require pre-event physical exams or HIV tests, some allow participants to fight while intoxicated and on-site medical care is not always available, according to the Illinois Department of Professional Regulation. The fights are sometimes one-sided when it comes to body weight or level of experience, the department said.
At least 12 people around the country have died in "toughman" events since 1979, according to state officials.
"All this is is a barroom brawl without the bar," said state Rep. James Meyer, R-Bolingbrook. "It is not a sport like boxing."
The Illinois Department of Professional Regulation initially attempted to ban "toughman" fighting events by enacting emergency state rules in January, but the General Assembly's Joint Commission on Legislative Rules refused to make the rule changes permanent.
State Rep. David Leitch, R-Peoria, said the state should stay out of the issue, and noted the fights have been bringing in significant revenues to some facilities that host the events in Rockford, Peoria and other parts of the state. "This is a law I don't think we need," Leitch said. "I think we ought to just leave the situation alone."
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