Daugaard will sign bill regulating mixed martial arts

In a reversal, Gov. Dennis Daugaard says he will sign a bill regulating fighting sports.

Daugaard had fiercely opposed creating an athletic commission to oversee sports such as boxing and mixed martial arts. He still doesn’t have kind words for the violence in sports like mixed martial arts, but says he’s reconciled to the idea of a commission.

"One thing I’ve learned about this cagefighting, it’s going on now, and it’s going on in an unregulated fashion," Daugaard said Friday morning. "I know some of the proponents of this bill made the argument that regulating it would create more safety than exists today, and I have to agree that’s true."

That’s not to say Daugaard has become a fan of mixed martial arts.

"Would I like this kind of thing to not occur at all in South Dakota? I would, yes," he said. "It doesn’t deserve the word sport in my mind."

But he said the bill passed overwhelmingly by the South Dakota Legislature has satisfied some of his concerns. So has the inclusion, at Daugaard’s request, of $95,000 to help get the athletic commission off the ground.

"Those things can be addressed now in the form that was passed by the houses, so I plan to sign that," Daugaard said.

The governor had opposed the proposal forcefully throughout the legislative session, and aides previously suggested he might veto the bill or let it become law without his signature.

The measure creating the South Dakota Athletic Commission will take effect on July 1. Daugaard has promised to appoint members to the commission, unlike a prior boxing commission he and former Gov. Mike Rounds left unfilled.