S.D. regulators discuss lower fees for fights

Capitol News Bureau
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PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The state panel that oversees boxing, kickboxing and mixed-martial arts in South Dakota is considering reducing its fee schedule as a possible way to attract larger events.

The state Athletic Commission currently charges a minimum of $3,000. That would remain the same. The fee for contests that gross more than $60,000 of revenue could be cut to 3% of the gross, from the current 5%, and could be capped at $300,000. There currently isn’t an upper limit.

The commission voted 4-0 Friday to proceed this fall with a public hearing on the proposed changes. The date wasn’t formally set.

Jennifer Stalley, the commission’s executive director, said UFC considered bringing a recent mega-event to South Dakota but eventually held the competition off-shore. She said that could have meant millions of dollars for the commission’s treasury.

The $300,000 cap would still be “well above” the commission’s costs for an event, according to Stalley. She said the 30 shows that the commission has overseen brought about $265,000 to the commission; for comparison, at 3% they would have generated about $180,800. She put the UFC event in “the millions” at the 5% rate.

The commission currently has a balance of about $135,000 in its treasury, down about $20,000 from one year ago.

Michael Kilmer of Spearfish, the commission’s chairman, said other places pay the sanctioning fees to host events. He said bigger events draw more gyms to want to participate.

“I don’t think we could lose any money by doing this,” Kilmer said. He added, “It gives us some leeway to motivate some other events to take place.” 

A previous UFC event generated about $160,000 for the commission.

“I don’t know that this commission was set up to be a revenue generator anyway,” said commissioner Margaret Gillespie of Alcester. 

Gillespie said the fee could be raised again if the reduction doesn’t work.

The commission will oversee a ticket-less MMA-style event Friday at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, starting at 8 p.m. CT, that will be held without spectators. Viewers can watch the competition using the UFC ‘fight pass,” Stalley said.

During weigh-ins Thursday, all of the fighters and their crews were tested for COVID-19 and wore masks as part of new protocol, Stalley said.

The only people without masks during the competition Friday night will be the competitors during their matches, she said, and they will leave the site immediately after their bouts finish.

“We’ll see what the vibe is in the arena,” Stalley said. She said the weigh-in was subdued in comparison to before the COVID-19 pandemic.

The general process will also be used for the next three competitions at the Pentagon.

“I think all in all this was a good way to get going on it,” Kilmer said.

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