Fight ban falls short, state weighs martial arts restrictions

by Chelle Delaney: Quay County Sun

Although he was outvoted, City Commissioner Christopher Maestas tried again at Thursday night’s meeting to introduce a resolution that would ban certain fighting events at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

“I can’t see us allowing these type of events,” Maestas said. “Even though we make a couple of dollars … we may have lost a child’s soul.”

Maestas was referring to the previous City Commission meeting when he tried to introduce a ban on mixed martial arts fights at the Tucumcari Convention Center.

Attention to mixed martial arts in Tucumcari was heightened when Jason Pacheco, 31 of Tucumcari, was shot on Feb. 1 and died several hours later at the Dan Trigg Memorial Hospital. Pacheco was shot near a gym where fighters were weighing in for a fight scheduled for Feb. 2 at the convention center. That fight was canceled. New Mexico State Police are investigating the shooting.

At the previous commission meeting, it was noted that the events generated more income from the sale of alcoholic beverages than the most recent Rattler reunion.

Maestas said children learned to drink by imitating adults and it was not proper to allow children to be in these situations.

Maestas said the only way to prevent such events was to introduce an ordinance.

Commissioner Antonio Apodaca seconded Maestas’ motion to introduce an ordinance. But it was only so the commissioners could discuss the matter, Apodaca said.

When it came to a vote, Apodaca and other commissioners, except for Jim Witcher, who was absent, voted against Maestas’ proposal.

Apodaca said, “We are heading toward a police state,” if such events are banned when they are not outlawed by New Mexico state law.

Commissioner James Lafferty said he had received calls from constituents on both sides of the issue.

“As along as it is legal,” Lafferty said, he didn’t think the commission could take any action.

“It’s not over yet,” Maestas said.

Contacted after the meeting, fight trainer and handler, John Cullum of the Ground Fighting team based in Tucumcari, said, “I don’t have any problems with an informed decision. But he’s (Maestas) is not educated in the sport and I don’t know what to think.”

In other matters before the commission:
• Matt Posinski, administrator of Dan C. Trigg Memorial Hospital, and Joanne Denton, owner of Boulevard Cleaners, were appointed to the Lodgers’ Tax Board.
• HDR Engineering Inc. of Albuquerque was selected for engineering design services for the City of Tucumcari Airport.
• City manager Richard Primrose thanked city officials and staff for their support in his tenure as manager. Primrose reports to Quay County on Thursday, when he assumes the post as Quay County manager.

State weighs martial arts restrictions

Legislation to regulate mixed martial arts contests in New Mexico is currently being considered in Santa Fe.

Senate Bill 305 has passed the Senate 37-0, and is being reviewed by two House of Representatives committees, the House Health and Government Affairs and the House Business and Industries committees.

There is also a House companion bill, 351.

City Commissioner Christopher Maestas asked the city attorney, Randy Knudson of Clovis, to investigate the legality of the city of Tucumcari allowing a private contractor to use the Tucumcari Convention Center for purposes of mixed martial arts fights, sometimes called cage fights.

Knudson wrote that he had researched the issue and eventually discussed the matter with Pamela Herndon, general counsel to the New Mexico Regulation and Licensing Department.

“Ms. Herndon indicated to me that at the current time there is absolutely no regulation of mixed martial arts fights in New Mexico and there is no applicable law banning such fights or restricting a municipality from holding events relating to the same,” Knudson wrote.

However, Knudson noted that Senate Bill 305 was being considered by the state Legislature.

The proposed legislation would bring the mixed martial arts under the umbrella of the state’s Professional Athletic Competition Act.

A letter supporting the legislation states, “Despite the growth in popularity and regulation of Mixed Martial Arts over the past decade, it is still inherently dangerous. The regulation of these contests is imperative in order to protect the health and overall welfare of combatants.”

Supporters also wrote that: “Serious injuries and even deaths have occurred during Mixed Martial Arts Contests in the past. If these contests are not regulated in order to ensure the safety and welfare of combatants, then more serious injuries and deaths could occur in the future within the State of New Mexico.”

John Cullum, trainer and handler of the 12-member Cullum Ground Fighting team in Tucumcari, said the proposed legislation has its pros and cons.

“It would make sure that the fighters were properly compensated,” and it would also edge out unprofessional promoters, he said.

On the other hand, it could also make it difficult for fighters in a small community like Tucumcari to compete as often as they’d like, Cullum said.

Fighters would be paired according to weight and class experience. Cullum said those restrictions would likely prevent upsets and prevent a fighter from quickly boosting their standings and reputations.