Ensuring Fighter Safety: A Conversation with Nebraska State Athletic Commissioner Brian Dunn


Nathan Rogers of MMA Futures had the opportunity to sit down with Brian Dunn, the Nebraska State Athletic Commissioner, to discuss the role of the commission and its impact on MMA in the state. Brian Dunn is a respected figure in the sport and has been working to regulate professional boxing and amateur and professional MMA events throughout Nebraska. In this interview, he sheds light on the commission’s responsibilities and efforts to prioritize fighter safety.

Protecting Fighters and Ensuring Safety

As the Nebraska State Athletic Commissioner, Brian Dunn’s primary responsibility is to protect the state from liability during combat sports events. This involves ensuring that every event complies with essential safety measures. He ensures that a doctor is present at every fight, an ambulance is on-site, and the promoter provides an insurance policy to protect the fighters in case of injury. Additionally, fighters are required to undergo clean blood work for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, and HIV, along with a physical examination to ensure their suitability for competition.

Dunn acknowledges that fighting is inherently dangerous, but he believes that adhering to unified rules for professionals and amateurs in MMA is essential to ensure safe competition. While different states may have variations in their rulesets, Dunn emphasizes the importance of maintaining safe standards to protect fighters across the country.

Financial Aspects and Taxes

The Nebraska State Athletic Commission operates as a sports commission and relies on a 5% fee collected from the sale of event tickets to fund its operations. This fee is charged in addition to the regular state tax and helps pay the salaries of commission staff and other expenses related to regulating combat sports events in the state.

Decision Making and Fighter Matchmaking

Dunn and his team are responsible for reviewing and approving fight matchups to ensure fighter safety. While fighters have the right to compete, Dunn believes that matchmaking should be done thoughtfully, considering the safety of the athletes involved. While he tries not to deny fights unnecessarily, he acknowledges that fighters should be physically prepared and trained before stepping into the cage.

Review Process for Referees and Judges

The commission trains referees and judges, making sure they have a thorough understanding of all aspects of MMA and combat sports. After a one-day training course and passing a test, referees and judges are observed in lower-level amateur fights to assess their skills and decision-making abilities. As they gain experience and prove their competence, they may get the opportunity to officiate higher-level fights.

Appeals and Overturning Decisions

Fighters or promoters have the right to appeal decisions made during an event. The appeal process involves a thorough review, which is conducted by Dunn’s boss, an attorney who reviews the facts and discussions with involved parties before deciding whether a decision should be overturned.

Adding New Sports and Regulations

When promoters or organizations want to introduce new combat sports in the state, they must work with legislators to draft a bill. Dunn’s role involves assessing the potential financial impact of introducing a new sport. Once approved, the commission will train referees and judges for the specific sport to ensure proper regulation.

The Future of Combat Sports in Nebraska

Dunn is optimistic about the future of combat sports in Nebraska. The state recently sanctioned bare-knuckle fighting and professional kickboxing events, showcasing its commitment to expanding combat sports opportunities. Dunn believes that supporting amateur combat sports is vital for growing the talent pool and creating a healthier fighting community.

Closing Thoughts

Brian Dunn’s role as the Nebraska State Athletic Commissioner is critical in safeguarding fighter safety during combat sports events. His dedication to adhering to unified rules and training referees and judges helps ensure the sport’s integrity and fairness. As combat sports continue to grow, the Nebraska State Athletic Commission plays a pivotal role in promoting a safe and exciting environment for fighters and fans alike.