Coming soon to a Pennsylvania arena near you: state-sanctioned mixed martial arts.

Well, maybe not that soon. Even though members of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission approved mixed-martial-arts events at their late February meeting by a 5-0 vote, the cumbersome process of drawing up a set of rules and regulations could delay introduction of the increasingly popular sport for 8months or more.

"I wouldn't expect any shows to be run in Pennsylvania until late this year or early in 2008," said Greg Sirb, executive director of the PSAC.

Sirb said the commission had received numerous requests from promoters and the public to bring MMA to Pennsylvania. But it was the sport's cleaned-up image, Sirb noted, that made the decision to sanction it easier.

"We looked at what MMA was doing in Nevada and New Jersey," said Sirb, who was impressed by what he saw at a UFC event in Columbus, Ohio, several weeks ago. "And when Marc Ratner [the former executive director of the Nevada State Athletic Commission] joined UFC [as vice president of regulatory affairs] last year, that was huge. Marc has impeccable credentials as an administrator. It was like a stamp of approval for the UFC organization."

Ratner has made it clear he wants to run UFC shows in Pennsylvania as soon as all the paperwork is cleared up.

"There's no question the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh markets are very appealing to the MMA people," Sirb said. *

— Bernard Fernandez