Texas poised to host professional slap fighting

Whether slapping is a sport is up for debate, though.

By Michael MarksJune 11, 2024 1:00 pm,

In combat-related sports like boxing or mixed martial arts, defending yourself is just as important as dishing out punishment. But in a newer form of fighting entertainment, defense isn’t part of the equation at all. Instead, two people stand across the table from one another, and slap each other in the face as hard as they can.

Power Slap, a slap fighting circuit owned by UFC boss Dana White, has all the trappings of a big-time boxing match. But to some, trading slaps doesn’t exactly measure up to the sweet science in a sporting sense. Now, regulators in Texas will get to decide how to regulate the slap fighting game here.

Eric Dexheimer, investigative reporter for the Houston Chronicle, spoke to Texas Standard about how it works. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.

This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:

Texas Standard: Give us a few more details about how these slap fights actually work.

Eric Dexheimer: Well, they’re three rounds. It’s very basic.

Two guys stand across a podium facing each other. The slapee holds a baton behind his back so his hands don’t move. The slapper, kind of tees off on his opponent. And once the slap is delivered, then the recipient has 60 seconds to recover if he isn’t knocked out cold, and then he gets his shot.

After three rounds, if someone is not knocked out, then judges decide the match based on how well the person took a slap and how well the opponent delivered a slap.

If the person isn’t knocked out cold… Does that happen very much?

That happens fairly frequently. And, from the organizers standpoint, it’s kind of a highlight.

If you think about a 15-round heavyweight bout, those can go on for quite a while, and maybe they won’t deliver the spectacle that people have come to watch. And slap fighting is nothing but the spectacle.

So regulators in Texas seem to be thinking about whether or not this may come to Texas soon. First of all, who are the regulators in a sport like this? And “coming to Texas” – what does that mean? Staging the matches here or gambling on it or what?

So combat sports are regulated by the state of Texas through the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation. They do boxing and mixed martial arts.

What would have to happen for slap fighting to be approved in Texas is that slap fighting has to be added to the description of regulated combat sports. And what regulation means is that the state of Texas would oversee the fight. That is, they would have representatives there during the bouts to make sure that there’s nothing illegal going on, that the people meet the medical requirements, that they pass drug tests and that they would have the opportunity to sanction both promoters and participants if any rules are broken.

The flip side is that because the sport is not actually banned, the state really only has the choice of ignoring it or regulating it. So, you know, from their perspective, the safest and best prospect is regulating it.

So you’re saying right now there’s really nothing to stop a promoter from trying to bring this to Texas without giving regulators any time of day?

That’s right. There’s no law prohibiting slap fighting. The UFC, you know, their tried and true method is to get regulated. In that way, they can stage events. And, you know, the state is a participant at that point.

Well, so is the state likely to be receptive to the idea of trying to regulate an event like this, or you think it’s inclined to look the other way?

No, I think the signals are that it’s prepared to regulate it.

Texas is a pretty big venue for combat sports. We’re one of the busiest states in the country. It’s a huge economic development gain for the state. And lawmakers have told the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation, which is run by a commission appointed by the governor, that they need to take into account the kind of economic impact of additional regulation. So from the meeting that I’ve been able to view, the slap fighting promoter got a very enthusiastic reception.

What happens next is that on June 20, there’s a subset of the licensing body called the Texas Combative Sports Advisory Board, and they are scheduled to give their advice on slap fighting.

Forgive me, but how dangerous is this? It sounds awfully dangerous. You’re not able to defend yourself.

Well, to its critics, it seems very dangerous. As you pointed out, there is no defensive component to this – that is, you can’t block or even flinch as you accept the slap.

To the promoters, they say it’s much less dangerous than boxing and even contact sports like football, where participants receive repeated blows over the course of a game or a match.

And the truth is, there has been no real scientific study of it. It’s too new a sport to have allowed for that. And so the truth is, nobody really knows whether it causes long-term CTE, which is chronic traumatic encephalopathy – the injury that football players have been known to sustain over time – or traumatic brain injury.

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