March 28, 2016 By Michael Florio
A sport that one local official described as “barbaric” has been legalized by the State legislature.
Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) will soon be legal in New York, after a bill passed the Assembly last week that establishes protocols for the sport and permits professional fights in the State.
Assembly Members voted 113-25 in support of the bill Tuesday; it had already passed in the Senate in February.
“The bill clearly defines NYSAC’s [New York State Athletic Commission] jurisdiction, and establishes a proper mechanism to govern authorized combative sports, which will provide critical protections to participants in what is today an entirely unregulated space,” the bill reads.
Assembly Members Marge Markey and Cathy Nolan were two of the 25 who opposed legalizing the combat sport. Markey called it a “barbaric activity.”
“I have had a longstanding view that professional MMA is a barbaric activity that glorifies violence and has no place in New York State,” she said.
“At a time when major professional contact sports are waking up to the long-term health consequences for participants, particularly brain damage, we should not be moving forward here without fully examining the issue for these even more vulnerable MMA players,” she added.
The sport was banned in New York in 1997. It is legal in the other 49 states.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), the leading MMA organization, plans on hosting four events per year in New York in the first three years after it is officially legalized.
“I want to assure our fans that if Governor [Andrew] Cuomo signs the bill into law and the State Athletic Commission puts in place the appropriate regulations, we look forward to hosting our first New York event in the world’s most famous arena – Madison Square Garden,” UFC Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lorenzo Fertitta said in a statement.
“We also look forward to scheduling events in Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica, Albany, and Brooklyn,” he added. “We are excited.”
The bill will now go to Cuomo, who is expected to sign the bill into law.