Lawmakers, supporters lobby for MMA legalization bill

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – Professional mixed martial arts fighting has been banned in New York State for several years, but lawmakers are continuing their fight for legalization at the Capitol.

For the seventh year, lawmakers were at the Capitol hoping to pass a bill that would legalize mixed martial arts. Supporters are more confident the bill will pass since Governor Andrew Cuomo included the sport in his budget.

According to lawmakers, New York-based MMA fighters are forced to leave the state to participate in fights.

“They get on a bus, they go to New Jersey or a neighboring state, and the best they can do is get friends and family on a bus and bring them along,” Assembly member Angelo Santabarbara said. “And that also means dollars leaving New York heading to another state, and tourism dollars are the best dollars.”

For former middle weight champion and Long Islander Chris Weidman, fighting in a professional MMA bout in his home state has always been a dream.

“To be able to drive to Madison Square Garden or take the train in and have my friends and family there to support me would be a dream come true,” he said.

And UFC fans like Justin Koreman would do just about anything to see a fight in New York.

“I’d probably give a kidney,” he said. “Being able to go hop a train and see a fight in the city or watching it here in Albany, to see a fight, that would mean everything.”

Lawmakers said if MMA had been legalized six years ago, it would have already generated $600 million in New York.

Spa City Jiu-Jitsu owner Eddie Fyvie said that even though professional MMA can’t occur in New York, amateur fights can.

“The bill stated that professional mixed martial arts is what’s illegal, so it’s kind of a loophole,” he said.

But it’s not as safe as a professional fight.

“They turned out to really not be a positive thing,” he said. “Because there was no sanctioning, no governing bodies; there was no regulation behind it.”

Fyvie said legalization would make the sport safer overall. Lawmakers agree.

“I think that if we legalize this sport, it will become something even better,” Santabarbara said.

Supporters hope to have the first professional MMA fight in New York by the end of the year.

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