Assemblyman Joseph Lentol Believes New York Could Become the Capitol of the World for MMA When It Becomes Legal

June 11, 2011
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(photo courtesy of the New York State Assembly)

Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D) from New York doesn’t believe the MMA bill will be passed in 2011, but says the sport being sanctioned there is long overdue.

The battle to get mixed martial arts sanctioned in New York State rages on, but with the current legislative session in the State Assembly set to finish on June 20, it appears the sport will not see a home there in 2011.

Joseph Lentol (D) represents North Brooklyn in the Assembly, and also heads up the Codes committee, the next group set to vote on the mixed martial arts bill currently weaving it’s way through the voting process.

Assemblyman Lentol, who has worked closely with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in the past, believes that it’s the controversial nature of MMA among the Assembly Democrats as to why the bill won’t see the Assembly floor in this voting session.

“Well, I know that there is a difference of opinion in our conference as to whether or not this is a good idea to legalize mixed martial arts,” Lentol told MMAWeekly.com. “We haven’t conferenced the bill this year among the Assembly Democrats, we have in the past, and there has been some controversy. I think that the Speaker has taken the position that there’s too much controversy and he doesn’t want to put it on the floor.”

The State of New York has several bills that are pending to hit the Assembly floor for a general vote before the end of this session, and while Assemblyman Lentol doesn’t want to say anything on the Speaker’s behalf, he believes there are just more pressing issues right now and that the MMA bill likely won’t see a vote for 2011.

“I think it’s more what I said, that we’re not going to take the time maybe as you said there are pressing issues that we have to take up before we adjourn and without looking for more controversial stuff to do. I think that may be the Speaker’s position,” Lentol commented.

As for his own personal position, Lentol has spoken out in support of MMA being sanctioned in the state of New York, and believes it’s something that should have been done a long time ago.

“I think that it’s long overdue. We could be the capitol of the world for these matches, at Madison Square Garden and at other places. Instead we have to watch on TV or see them in Jersey and it doesn’t make any sense when these states around us have legitimized this. We’re not talking about the old ‘ultimate fighting’ that the state banned, but I think it gets caught up in that,” Lentol stated.

“I understand that this is a different sport. Is it a little dangerous? Yes. But so is boxing, so are a lot of other sports, so is car racing, and in any event, my position has been clear. I think that it’s long overdue. The state of New York could use the revenue that this would generate. The kids love it. The kids know more about MMA stars than they do about football stars. They can buy all the paraphernalia in Macy’s and all of the stores you can think of in New York, yet the sport is illegal here.”

Assemblyman Lentol doesn’t believe the bill to legalize MMA will pass in 2011 just based on the comments of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but he does believe it is destined to happen.

If he has his way, Lentol would already be watching a UFC event in his home state.

“This is something whose time will definitely come,” Lentol said. “I just wish it was sooner rather than later because I think it’s something we could capitalize on and I think we’re going to realize that, very soon I hope.”

UFC president Dana White obviously agrees with the Assemblyman, and says that he believes the sport is gaining momentum in the state, but just hasn’t made it to the Assembly floor for a vote to make it official.

“This run was a little bit better, we got more support than we’ve had than the last time. We’ll see, whatever happens, happens,” White said on Thursday. “Every time we go we gain more momentum.”

Assemblyman Lentol would also love to see a major MMA event in his home area of Brooklyn, where they are currently building a new state of the art facility that will become home to the NBA’s New Jersey Nets.

“That stadium would be a perfect location for an MMA match,” Lentol stated.

For now however it appears MMA in New York won’t be legal in 2011, but the support seems overwhelming for the sport to eventually be sanctioned there. The only question that remains is when?


Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for MMAWeekly.com.
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