NYS Assembly passes mixed martial arts bill

Johnny Hendricks, Matt Brown

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — The New York State Assembly has finally passed the mixed martial arts bill.

The bill to legalize mixed martial arts in New York passed the state assembly on Tuesday with a vote of 113-25. New York is the last state in the country to legalize the sport.

There was a lot of hope this year because the sport was included in Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s budget proposal, and there is also new leadership in the Assembly.

The bill to legalize MMA passed through the Ways and Means Committee, it made its way through the Codes Committee by a vote of 16 to 5, and before that, it passed the Tourism, Parks, and Art and Sports Development Committee by a vote of 15 to 5.

The state senate has passed the bill several years in a row, but it’s always been blocked by the assembly because the former speaker didn’t like it. Now that Sheldon Silver is gone, assembly democrats felt the sport finally had a chance.

Ronald Mcevilly, Jr. has been fighting for seven years. He was excited to learn the bill had passed in the assembly.

“Man, you don’t even understand how much I’m, like, whew,” he said. “I don’t drink, but I think I should go to the bar.”

Supporters of the bill said it will bring millions in tourism dollars to the state as well as give athletes a chance to compete in their home state.

“We would expect with this up to 60 upstate venues, and in the major venues like the Times Union Center at least three times per year,” Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara said.

Times Union Center General Manager Bob Belber said the economic impacts per event could bring a huge influx of money for the Capital Region. He said there are holes in the schedule that could possibly be filled by MMA fights.

“A sellout here would be worth about 17,000 people,” he explained. “Multiply that by three. What does that have as far as an impact on the community, on the businesses, and the restaurants and bars, and filling up the hotels? Probably worth $2 million to $3 million.”

Lawmakers estimate the sport could bring in $67 million by 2017.

But those who oppose it said it doesn’t matter how much money the sport can generate because it’s too dangerous.

“The violence of this sport and the long-term impact on the participants outweighs the short-term economic development gains,” Assemblymember Patricia Fahy said.

As a local MMA instructor, Mcevilly said the sport isn’t about violence. He said it teaches the opposite characteristics.

“It’s respect, it’s discipline, it’s self-confidence, it’s encouragement, it’s self-powering,” he said. “It’s everything that I needed as a young boy being bullied.”

UFC officials said their team was making phone calls to numerous events across the state to work out scheduling as soon as the bill passed the assembly. They are hoping to be in Madison Square Garden before the end of the year.

“For seven years, I’ve been missing out on an opportunity to fight in front of my family, friends and fans,” former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman said. “It’s a dream come true for me, and a dream come true for all of these New York fans. Now they don’t have to worry about buying these tickets to Las Vegas to watch the New York fighters get in there.”

This was the first time the chamber has voted on MMA since the ban took place in 1997.

Cuomo still has to sign the bill. If he does, there’s a 120-day period before any MMA events can be held.

 

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