MMA Bill All But Dead for 2011 as New York Assembly Wraps Up Last Session

The fight to get MMA legalized and sanctioned in the state of New York appears all but dead until at least 2012.

With Monday being the last legislative day for the New York State Assembly to pass any laws for 2011, the bill to legalize MMA was not even on the roster for the day’s agenda of events.

The bill, S1707A, passed through the New York Senate with relative ease and then slid through two of the necessary committees – the Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development committee, as well as the Codes committee – before stalling out in the Ways & Means committee before Monday’s final legislative day.

This is just the latest setback for the sport’s battle in New York where a great number of politicians have spoken out in support of the bill, yet it seemingly can’t get to the Assembly floor for a general vote.

Codes committee chairman Assemblyman Joseph Lentol (D) spoke to about this issue earlier in June, and said he couldn’t speak for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, but from his estimation it was likely the controversial nature of the sport that is keeping it from a general vote.

“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 said. “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.”

Despite that statement from his party leader, Lentol himself is a supporter of MMA being legalized in the state for both the spectator nature of the sport, but also the financial benefits to local businesses and economy.

“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.”

Herman Farrell, head of the Assembly’s Ways & Means committee where the bill stalled before Monday’s deadline, obviously is not a fan of the sport, and didn’t sound very disappointed that the vote would not be held on the bill.

“I don’t think very much of the sport,” Farrell said. “Next we’ll give them clubs with spikes on the end; that will be good.”

Lentol disagrees, however, pointing out that while yes mixed martial arts has a certain danger level to it, there is no difference in regards to safety for the sport when compared to other major athletics like boxing or auto racing.

“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,” Lentol stated.

The legislative calendar will come to a close on Monday unless Governor Andrew Cuomo opts to extend the session, but even then it’s not expected that the bill to legalize MMA would end up on the docket.

It appears for now, MMA’s best hope to land in New York will have to wait until at least 2012.

Damon Martin is the lead staff writer and radio host for
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