Column: Tribal sovereignty and mixed martial arts competition
"Half an hour before stepping into a cage against Tommy Morrison, the famed boxer who on this June evening in 2007 could not prove for certain he was HIV-negative, John Stover was told about the rules changes.

Stover, a 340-pound full-time sheet rock worker, part-time fighter from Pine Ridge, S.D., could not grapple, could not knee, could not elbow, and could not kick. All he could do, according to Morrison's representatives, was step into a fenced-off enclosure with a man who 11 years earlier tested positive in Nevada for the life-threatening blood-born virus, strap on four-ounce gloves and punch. Well, that or not get paid.

Why did Stover suffer from less safeguards than options?

He was scheduled to meet Morrison in Camp Verde, Ariz., on the Yavapai- Apache Nation reservation, under the guise of mixed martial arts, where literally anything could -- and still can -- go. Neither fighter was required to undergo heart, blood or eye examinations prior to the bout, and the Arizona State Athletic Commission had no jurisdiction to intercede.

"It's hard for a lot people to understand that we have absolutely no control over what happens on tribal land [in regards to MMA]," said Joe Miller, executive director of the Oklahoma State Athletic Commission. "They can do what they want to. Now if it was boxing it would be a different story."

When Congress passed the Boxing Safety Reform Act of 1996 and amended it four years later as part of the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, it ensured among many other things that boxing on Indian reservations would have to meet certain standards and licensing requirements. MMA does not fall under similar legislation, meaning a loophole exists that allows promoters to find willing partners for any kind of fights they please under any rules they choose."

Get the Story:
Josh Gross: Athletic commissions have no say on MMA events on tribal lands (Sports Illustrated 9/14)