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Assembly votes to legalize MMA in NYS by wide margin

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March 22, 2016 -

In a historic vote, the New York State Assembly voted to legalize mixed martial arts in New York State by a 113-25 margin.  The bill was passed by the Senate back in February.  The Senate had legalized the bill each of the previous six years before the legislation failed to pass the Assembly.

Discussion about the legislation took nearly three hours on the Assembly floor before putting the bill to a vote.  During that discussion, those in opposition went so far as to compare MMA to slavery, Roman arena fighting, and "gay porn with a different ending."  Concerns over MMA "ruining the lives of innocent women and children" were also expressed, also that legalizing MMA would cause youth fight clubs to pop up across the state, and that child sex offenders would seek jobs as MMA trainers.

Those in favor of legalizing the sport countered with arguments saying that New York was the only state in the country yet to legalize the sport.  Also, that New York residents are not banned from watching the sport on television or the internet, so if they wanted to replicate the violent behavior of the sport, they could do so now.  Supporters also cited increase in tax revenue as a result of major professional MMA events in the state, as a big reason why the sport should be legalized.

NYS Assemblywoman Donna Lupardo is one of the 73 sponsors on the bill and released the following statement Tuesday evening:

"The legalization of mixed martial arts in New York State will boost economic development and improve safety for the athletes involved. The bill we passed made significant improvements over previous bills that were proposed, adding tough safety and insurance protections to make New York the most highly regulated state for MMA in the nation."

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Deborah Glick (D - 66th District) was one of those against the bill and released this statement upon it's passing:

"I'm disappointed that today the Assembly passed a bill eliminating the ban on Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) also known as Ultimate Fighting. One of the major arguments presented is that it is legal in every other state and New Yorkers can view it on TV. It is my belief that many of these states allowed this so called sport long before we learned of the long term physical impacts of combative sports. As we've seen from recent reports focused on the damage to National Football League (NFL) players, their injuries are wide ranging and include declining cognitive ability. According to a recent study in the March 21, 2014, issue of the American Journal of Sports Medicine, about one-third of professional MMA matches end in a knockout or a technical knockout. A technical knockout occurs when a fight is stopped by a referee who determines that a fighter is no longer able to defend him- or herself. This study indicates that there is a higher incidence of brain trauma in MMA than in boxing or other martial arts.
 
Allowing this combative sport in New York State will send a message to young people that there is a career path for them in an activity that could seriously jeopardize their future health. While it may take some time to develop, one can only hope that NYS taxpayers and these young people will not be the ones paying the price for the profits of these promoters and sports venues."

UFC has been pleading with New York lawmakers to approve the sport for years.  Now that their wish has come true, they've already started planning events for the Empire State.  Lorenzo Ferttita, UFC Chariman and CEO, expressed interest in holding UFC events in Manhattan and Brooklyn as well as upstate cities Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester, and Utica.

With several UFC fighters calling New York State home, there's plenty of excitement following today's vote.

"I do enjoy the fact that I'll have more access to my fans and my local fan base.  When I fought in Florida I had 30-40 plus people flying down, driving down, buying tickets to see me fight," said Tamdan McCrory, UFC Fighter and Binghamton area native.  "I think fighting in New York State or close to it I'm going to draw a much bigger fan base here."

"Just speaking for myself, I've been fighting for seven years.  I've been missing out on opportunities to fight in front of my family and friends here in New York," said Chris Weidman, UFC Middleweight Champion and Long Island native.  "Every year you just hope for it and it falls through.  So for it to finally happen, it's a dream come true for me. It's a dream come true for all these New York fans.  Now they don't have to buy tickets to Las Vegas to see these New York fighters to get in there, or take long car rides to New Jersey."

UFC said the first event in New York could happen in the fourth quarter of 2016 and hopefully two events in the state by the end of the year.  

The bill now heads to Governor Andrew Cuomo's desk for his signature.  It's expected that there will be a 120 day period for the rules and regulations to be established for the sanctioning body before any professional fight can take place.