The Democratic-led Assembly on Tuesday approved a measure that would legalize mixed-martial arts in New York following a three hour debate. The legislation has long been bottled up in the chamber as the Republican-controlled Senate has approved the bill for the last seven years.
The measure was approved, 113 to 25. The development is poised to end a ban on the sport in New York, which critics have deemed too violent.
A longtime booster of legalized MMA, Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski (D), said, “New York now joins the rest of the nation in regulating this sport and allowing fans to attend events in their home state. Being the only state where this was illegal wasn’t stopping anybody from watching the sport, but it was preventing New York from sharing in tourism revenue from these types of events. Furthermore, by regulating the sport, we are able to guarantee the safety of amateur participants.”
Assemblyman Karl Brabenec (R) also was stoked. “Professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) is the fastest growing sport in the world,” Brabenec said. “It is remarkable that the Assembly took this long to pass a bill legalizing this sport when every other state in the nation already allows it. The Senate has passed MMA every year for the better part of a decade and I am glad to see that the Assembly has finally answered the call. Most importantly, we’re legalizing the safe, well-regulated protections that these athletes must have.
“I sponsor this bill because MMA has the potential for thousands of new jobs, millions in additional revenue and the ability for iconic arenas like Madison Square Garden to market worldwide stars and expand their operations. I look forward to witnessing MMA’s growth in our state and bringing high-profile, profitable events to our area as well as the jobs that come with it.”
Passage of the bill is a victory for Assembly Majority Joe Morelle, a Democrat from the Rochester area who had carried the legislation in the chamber over the last several years. It’s also a significant victory for Ultimate Fighting Championship, the main promoter of MMA bouts which had pledged to scheduled several events in New York, including upstate cities and at Madison Square Garden.
“New York’s amazing arenas – upstate and downstate – have worked with us to advocate passage of this bill. So, too, have restaurants, hotels, businesses and others who recognize the economic value professional MMA can bring to New York,” UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said. “Our athletes have been extraordinary. More than 20 have been to Albany to help educate legislators about the fastest growing sport in the world. And our fans have been phenomenal. Through letters and phone calls, rallies and social media, New York’s MMA and UFC fans have lent their voices of support. It took a while, but their voices have been heard.”
The bill now goes to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk, who is expected to sign the legislation after including the provision in his $154 billion budget proposal in January. Cuomo earlier in the day said the passage of MMA would be an economic driver for the state.
“They’re committed to doing shows in New York that would bring people…into New York,” Cuomo said during a stop in Niagara Falls.
Part of this article was originally published by NY STATE OF POLITICS