For the third straight year, the New York State Senate passed a bill that would open the door for mixed martial arts to be legalized in the Empire State. And for the third straight year, the future of said bill rests largely on the shoulders of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.
The bill, S.1707-A, which would authorize the New York State Athletic Commission to add MMA to the list of sports that may hold matches and exhibitions in New York, was approved by a 43-14 vote. Last year, the Senate voted 42-18 in its favor. The bill needs to pass both the Senate and Assembly in order to go into effect.
“We would like to thank the New York State Senate for passing the bill to legalize and regulate MMA for the third time in the last three years,” UFC Chairman & CEO Lorenzo Fertitta stated in a press release. “We are hopeful the third time will be the charm with the State Assembly. The bill received overwhelming and bipartisan support and we would especially like to recognize the leadership of the Senate sponsor Joseph Griffo.
“Over the next two months, we will focus our efforts on convincing Assembly leadership that this bill, now sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Morelle – who is a Monroe County native just like UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones – should be brought to the floor of the Assembly for a vote, where we are convinced it will have strong bipartisan support."
The race to get MMA legalized in New York ends in mid-June, which is when the state's legislative session concludes for the calendar year. Last year, the Senate voted in its favor on May 23, so they're more than a month early this time around.
Now, Silver has shown little interest in passing the bill in the Assembly, however, on Wednesday, he seemed more open to it than ever.
“I have mixed feelings about it,” Silver said, according to TimesUnion.com. “On the one hand I do believe it’s rather violent and it sets a tone for people. On the other hand, you can turn on the television and see it, a child can see it from their homes on a regular TV and we’re one of the few states that don’t legalize it. Obviously legalization comes with regulation, and we may be better off having regulation.
“Members control the process. The bill is in the legislative process at this point. We have a committee-driven process and we’ll see what happens. There’s a lot of sentiment for it and there’s a lot of sentiment against it.”
Only three states with athletic commission have yet to legalize MMA: New York, Connecticut and Vermont. Montana and Alaska don't have athletic commissions in place but do host unregulated events.
Zuffa sent Nick Catone and Ronda Rousey to Albany today to discuss the benefits of legalizing MMA in the state. Check out a video of them speaking to TimesUnion.com below.