By Jonathan Solomon
The chance for mixed martial arts to be legalized in New York State in 2013 were dashed Tuesday evening when Democrats in the Assembly voiced their displeasure against such legislation.
It means for the fourth consecutive year, despite passing overwhelmingly in the state Senate, pro-MMA bills have never made it to the floor for a vote in the state Assembly. However, there remains reason to have hope for 2014 because there were 64 sponsors of the bill, the most to date. The next session in Albany starts in January and supporters will have to start anew, going through both legislative bodies while hoping for a change of attitude in the Assembly.
Despite the fact that if brought to a vote, the bill likely would have passed easily with support from both Democrats and Republicans, the majority party only pushes legislation that they can pass with their own numbers. “The [Democratic] conference has asked not to put it on the agenda,” Speaker Sheldon Silver said according to New York Daily News reporter Kevin Lovett.
Opponents of mixed martial arts in New York have referred to the sport as anti-woman and anti-gay.
However, openly gay Assemblyman Matthew Titone chastised such accusations. He said, “A sport can’t be misogynistic or homophobic. But if some of those in the sport are, I say put them in the cage and let them beat the crap out of each other.”
Governor Andrew Cuomo has never voiced a direct opinion for or against the sport, wavering by asking for further information regarding the economic impact it may have on local communities.
Recently, Canada passed legislation to formally legalize MMA throughout its country while the Connecticut state Senate voted for legalization earlier this month, laying the groundwork to become the 49th state to do so. The only obstacle which remains for them is a signature from Governor Dannel Malloy, because he has the option to veto their bill and has publicly said he is not a fan. However, expectations are he will sign it into law based on the positive from the legislature.
After word broke regarding the fate of mixed martial arts in New York, Ultimate Fighting Championship chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta released a statement expression his disappointment. “Continuing to ban MMA in New York does not hurt the UFC. It only highlights the absurdity of the dishonest debate being waged by a small number of people in New York. And New Yorkers pay the price,” he said.
Fertitta added, “We want to thank Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle – a true champion – and the more than 60 cosponsors who know passing this bill is the right thing to do. We will continue to work with them to educate the rest of their colleagues.”
“Speaker Silver said legalizing MMA in New York is ‘inevitable’ and we agree. It is discouraging that the Speaker does not yet believe that the bill garnered the support of his conference, however, we appreciate that he has brought it to conference for the last two years and we are convinced that the third time will be the charm”
In April, the New York Daily News reported the UFC spent $1.6 million to lobby New York politicians since 2007.
While the Empire State remains closed off to the UFC and Bellator MMA, amateur fights are still allowed by law. They are not sanctioned by the state, but sometimes by third-party bodies such as the United States Muay Thai Association. However, there are still plenty of shows which are not sanctioned by anyone and are conducted at the behest of the individual promoter.
For neighboring states such as Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New Jersey, this news gives each of them more opportunities to host events over the next year.
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