Hell might have just frozen over, as New York on Tuesday became the final state in the U.S. to legalize mixed martial arts.
While the bill to legalize MMA in New York has passed the State Senate for the past seven years, prior to 2016, it had never gotten to the Assembly floor for a vote. It finally found passage through the necessary committees – the Tourism, Arts, Parks and Sports Development Committee; the Codes Committee; the Ways and Means Committee; and the Rules Committee – before moving to the Assembly floor.
Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffee spoke out against passage of the bill, encouraging her peers to join her in voting to continue the ban on MMA. Hon. Charles Barron joined her, vehemently arguing that “this sport should remain banned.” Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morrelle argued in favor of the bill’s passage; as did Hon. Dean Murray, who vouched for the professionalism that he has witnessed in mixed martial arts, but also argued about the dangers of not having proper oversight at events.
The arguments by the few against the bill were wide-ranging, likening MMA to slavery, questioning how the bill to legalize MMA would stop child sex offenders from assaulting children, and calling it much more violent that boxing, football, or other professional sports.
Murray closed his argument for the bill with a passionate, “It is time to legalize mixed martial arts in the State of New York,” and that is what happened.
When the votes were tallied, the bill to legalize mixed martial arts in New York passed the State Assembly with 113 voting for the bill and 25 voting against it.
The bill still needs Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s signature to become law, but that is considered all but a formality, as Cuomo has shown strong support for legalizing MMA in his state.
According to Newsday’s Mark La Monica, Cuomo included funding for the New York State Athletic Commission to oversee mixed martial arts in his 2016 budget.
”New York is the only state in the nation that does not allow professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) contests,” read Gov. Cuomo’s proposal for legalizing MMA in his State of the State book, according to Newsday. “Thousands of New Yorkers attend dozens of unregulated amateur MMA events in New York each year and unlicensed promoters organize and promote amateur MMA contests in all corners of New York State.
“The Governor seeks to authorize both amateur and professional MMA and will ensure that contests happen under either the supervision of the New York State Athletic Commission or an alternative authorized sanctioning entity. It will place firm controls on MMA, its participants and promoters that ensure the protection of fighters and fans.”
Now that legislation has met with approval of both the Senate and the Assembly, Gov. Cuomo’s signature will open the door to MMA in New York.
“I do support MMA because it is an economic generator,” Gov. Cuomo told Newsday on Tuesday.
The UFC has been lobbying for this day for many years, and already has a date penciled in for an event at Madison Square Garden sometime this fall.