By Jonathan Solomon
With less than a month to go in their 2013 legislative calendar, Connecticut lawmakers passed a bill this week that aims to legalize mixed martial arts.
One of two states which actively bans the sport – the other being New York - only shows that occur on the grounds of an Indian-run casino can currently take place.
MMA is illegal due to a state statute courtesy of a 2008 legal opinion from then-Attorney General (and current U.S. Senator) Richard Blumenthal. “Because the current boxing regulations prohibit the fighting techniques used in MMA, and there is no statutory authority for MMA, MMA events cannot take place in Connecticut without a legislative change,” he wrote at the time.
The House of Representatives voted 117 to 26 and now the bill moves to the State Senate, although opposition remains. House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, one of the supporters of legalization, said, “I think it’s an important enough bill that we should pass it…I don’t know what the inclinations are in the Senate at this point.”
In reference to the beef between the owners of the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s parent company, Zuffa, and the Culinary Worker’s Union in Las Vegas, Connecticut AFL-CIO representative Lori Pelletier says, “If we want to bring entertainment into Connecticut, we want these to be good corporate citizens.” The Fertitta brothers own Station Casinos in Nevada and do not employ union workers owners. This has also been a thorn in the side of the sport as attempts to overturn the 1997 New York ban continue.
The state has not been supportive of the bill in previous years because in the four previous attempts, each time the bill failed. In 2012, it never made it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Proponents of the bill cite safety and economic reasons to legalize and sanction the sport. With no regulation, there is no required health checks or safety mechanisms for athletes or spectators on the shows that do take place. Plus, arenas throughout the state would become eligible to host various MMA events such as the 16,000-plus-seat XL Center or the 10,000-seat Webster Bank Arena.
UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said, “I want to thank the House members who supported this bill. It’s the right thing to do for thousands of Connecticut MMA and UFC fans, for economic development in the state and for jobs. We will now turn our attention to the Senate and urge the leadership to permit the bill to be voted upon. We are confident that if Senators are allowed to vote on the bill, it will pass with strong bipartisan support.”
Connecticut’s 2013 legislative session ends on June 5 and MMAOnline.com will keep you updated on the state’s push to legalize MMA.
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