The Massachusetts State Athletic Commission said it will look into modifying its rules following a controversial amateur bout that took place in April.
"The commission agreed it deserves careful examination," Terrel Harris, a spokesperson for the MSAC, on Friday wrote in an email to MMAjunkie.com (www.mmajunkie.com).
At a meeting planned for October, the commission's medical advisory board is expected to offer an opinion on whether a "per se rule" is needed to immediately end matches in which a fighter loses consciousness from a submission hold.
A per se rule is defined as a generalized rule applied without consideration for specific circumstances.
The commission addressed the amateur fight during a meeting on Thursday and decided that further review was necessary.
The bout at the center of the debate took place April 20 at a commission-sanctioned event held in Chicopee, Mass., called "Warrior Nation Xtreme Fighters Alliance: Warrior Nation III." The bantamweight contest took a bizarre turn after one combatant, Justin Kristie, applied a triangle choke that caused his opponent, David Baxter, to perform what appeared to be a tapping motion and then go unconscious at the end of the first round.
Soon after Baxter went into a brief seizure and flailed his legs on the floor of the cage. Two doctors working for the commission then ruled him fit to continue after he regained consciousness. He surprisingly went on to win the bout by second-round TKO.
Harris initially told MMAjunkie.com that the bout, which was put together by MMA prospect Nick Newell, was "a fully sanctioned fight, and all the rules were followed." He added the referee and doctors are veteran officials in Massachusetts.
"[Baxter] stayed awake until right after the bell then blacked out for a second, is how it appears and what the doctors said," Harris said in an interview shortly after a video of the fight surfaced online.
"I know a lot of people think they know better than a doctor, but I don't think I know better than any doctors," said Baxter's coach, Tom Hafers. "Two doctors said he was fit to fight, so I didn't question what they said."
But several who saw the bout said it should have been stopped.
"In New Jersey, and, I would surmise, in many other commissions, the fight would have been stopped after the fighter was caught in a submission that he couldn't remove himself from, after he suffered a loss of consciousness, and after he suffered a seizure," said New Jersey State Athletic Control Board legal counsel Nick Lembo. "A fighter should be able to intelligently defend himself and continue at all times. He cannot be saved by the bell in any round, or any portion of the fight."
"This may have been one of the most egregious episodes I've ever seen," said MMAjunkie.com medical expert Dr. Johnny Benjamin. "This debacle represents a systemic failure to promote fighter safety.
"To allow a fighter to continue in a contact or combat sport after they have experienced oxygen deprivation to the brain sufficient enough to induce seizure is a recipe for potential catastrophic disaster, including death."
Kristie's trainer, Andrew Calandrelli, said commission representatives also forbade him from entering the cage between rounds to coach Kristie or give him water. In another bizarre moment, he said someone from the crowd confronted him during the break and demanded he be kicked out of the venue.
A review of the video (available above) shows that about 94 seconds pass between the first and second rounds as the doctors, and what appear to be Baxter's cornermen, tend to the downed fighter, who later stands and gives a thumbs-up to one doctor.
According to the MSAC amateur MMA rules, the duration of time between rounds is to be no longer than 60 seconds "unless a different duration is approved by the commission." It does not specify when the approval is given.
Additionally, the rules state that "the referee shall stop a contest or exhibition of unarmed combat at any stage if the referee determines that both unarmed combatants are in such a condition that to continue might subject the unarmed combatants to serious injury."
During his initial interview, Harris said the bout's result was unlikely to be changed, but later wrote that Kristie had challenged the outcome of the bout and had filed an appeal.
Today, the spokesperson said that the commission took no action on the appeal because the fighters and their reps didn't show to a July 12 meeting at which both were offered the opportunity to testify about the fight.
Kristie's trainer, Andrew Calandrelli, confirmed that he filed an appeal for the fighter but was unable to make the meeting. He said a commission representative initially told him the result would not be overturned. After he protested, the representative said the fight was being reviewed and that both fighters would be invited to testify.
It was the first sanctioned bout for both Kristie and Baxter.
"The worst part of the whole situation is that Justin hasn't really been back (to the gym) since then," Calandrelli said. "That kind of killed his spirt a little."