New York votes to lift ban on MMA, making sport legal in all 50 states
The New York State Assembly voted 113 to 25 on Tuesday in favor of a bill that lifted a 19-year ban on mixed martial arts in the state, making MMA legal in all 50 states for the first time.
After a passionate and often far-flung debate that lasted more than three hours, state assembly members approved Bill S05949A and sent it to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s desk for a signature. Cuomo has said he will sign the bill.
The New York State Athletic Commission must now finalize its regulations before an event can be held in New York. The law calls for a period of 120 days before an event can be held.
The UFC is expected to host an event at New York’s Madison Square Garden as soon as is feasible, but most likely not until the second half of 2016.
Opponents mainly argued against it because of concerns over brain injuries that fighters may suffer and because of potential issues regarding gambling on the fights.
Rep. Daniel J. O’Donnell of the 69th Assembly District, who is openly gay, noted that there were claims of a fix in the 2016 Australian Open tennis tournament and that he is concerned it could happen in MMA.
He questioned the money spent on the lobbying effort to get the sport legalized. He said he made an effort to learn more about the sport.
“I should really like it,” O’Donnell said. “You have two naked hot men rolling around on top of each other, trying to dominate each other. Just in case you don’t know, that’s gay porn with a different ending.”
But many legislators spoke eloquently on MMA, noting that the sport promoted discipline and respect. Most supporters agreed there was a level of risk associated with it, but pointed out it will be better with adequate regulations in place.
“This has been a long time coming and on behalf of our New York UFC athletes and fans, I want to offer heartfelt thanks to Speaker Heastie, Majority Leader Morelle and all the Members of the Assembly – Democrats and Republicans – who voted for this bill,” said Lorenzo Fertitta. Joe Morelle has worked tirelessly to educate his colleagues and build support for legalizing professional MMA and regulating both professional and amateur MMA. He has worked closely with Senator Joe Griffo, who has shepherded this effort in the Senate, where the bill has passed with strong bipartisan support for the last seven years, and MMA fans owe both a huge debt of gratitude.”
“The New York Assembly’s vote to legalize MMA is a watershed moment for this incredible sport,” said Bellator MMA president Scott Coker. As someone who has been promoting combat sports for more than 30 years, this is a very exciting time for mixed martial arts. We at Bellator MMA are very much looking forward to hosting an event in the ‘Crown Jewel of America,’ New York. Two Bellator champions, Liam McGeary and Marcos Galvao call New York home and I know it means a great deal to the both of them, as it does for the entire promotion. We’ve already been in contact with the great people at the Barclays Center and several other incredible venues, and we can’t wait bring our world-class athletes and action-packed shows to an arena in the Empire State soon.”