MIXED martial arts fans’ dreams of seeing Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor possibly fight in “The World’s Most Famous Arena” Madison Square Garden could soon come true as the New York State Assembly finally voted in favour of legalising the sport of MMA in the state. This ruling ends a near-20 ban on the sport in the state; in 1997 MMA was banned due to it being a largely unregulated sport at the time. As the years went by, however, the sport grew & evolved and became legal (if it wasn’t already) in all other 49 states, and was, for the most part, regulated by state athletic commissions; but New York held out. The delay was frequently chalked up to the fact that UFC owners Frank & Lorenzo Fertitta had issues with Sheldon Silver, Speaker of the New York State Assembly, over the lack of unionisation in the Fertitta’s New York casinos. Though completely unrelated to UFC or MMA it was assumed to be the main roadblock in MMA’s legalisation in the state until Mr.Silver was arrested & later found guilty on federal corruption charges and was automatically expelled from the Assembly in late 2015.
Though its main adversary in the Assembly was now gone, it was not presumed MMA would have a totally easy ride; and while the vote passed by a massive margin (114 in favour of legalisation, 26 against) it wasn’t without utterly bizarre arguments from members of the Assembly, some of which I will go through now:
Daniel O’Donnell (not that Daniel O’Donnell, though he is brother to comedienne Rosie O’Donnell) objected, remarking that MMA was “…two nearly naked, hot men rolling on top of one another, trying to dominate each other. Just in case you don’t know, that’s gay porn with a different ending,” despite his sister being both openly gay and openly a fan of MMA. Charles Barron compared it to African slaves being forced to fight on plantations in America, adding that “…throwing two human beings in a cage and you know how we used to say in our neighborhoods how you should have a fair fight, even when the man is knocked down when I grew up, you’re supposed to step back, let him get up and let’s start all over again” even though fights are stopped in sanctioned MMA if a fighter is clearly rattled, unlike in street-fights. Angela Wozniak said “…a registered sex offender could own an MMA school, they could teach in that facility and we can’t be naive to the fact that these people target these schools” despite several MMA schools being open in New York State already with little known consequence; in addition to this the same could be said for any kind of school or dojo. It should be noted that Ms.Wozniak voted in favour of the legalisation. Ellen Jaffee opposed it on the grounds that it “sanctions violence for profit,” despite boxing & professional wrestling being incredibly popular in New York for decades now.
Not all speakers made essentially ridiculous points; many speakers brought up a study conducted by HBO which found cases of domestic violence were more prevalent in MMA than in any other sport. One could argue that (and they did) the popularisation & influence of mixed martial arts could lead to an increase in domestic violence, especially in the context of the aforementioned study. However, not only is this the same strawman-type argument used against violent films or video games but also, as Earlene Hooper pointed out in the Assembly, the popularisation of MMA where one of its biggest stars is female (Ronda Rousey) could lead to a popularisation of training in self-defence & martial arts among both women and men who are victims of domestic abuse.
Despite the odd comments, this Bill marks the end of a near-20 year ban of mixed martial arts in the Empire State, with the state athletic commission having 120 days to draw up a list of rules & regulations for the sport. Lorenzo Fertitta has said that New York may see two UFC events before the end of 2016, with a massive pay-per-view event in Madison Square Garden being one of the these. He also added that he wants UFC to set financial gate records at every arena they utilise, which may prove to be tough in “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”