It's been a long time coming; but, mixed martial arts is now one signature away from being legal in New York State.  New York's Assembly put the bill to the floor for a vote on Tuesday evening and it passed by a margin of 113 to 25.  The bill will now be sent on to Governor Andrew Cuomo, where he is expected to sign it into law.

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi spoke to Assembly members about Utica's MMA fighter, Matt Hamill, who was a former champion high school and college wrestler who entered the limelight of the UFC after appearing on its reality television program. While Hamil was able to compete in front of his birth-state of Ohio, he was never allowed to fight in his home city of Utica.

SO5949A Establishes protocols for combative sports; authorizes mixed martial arts events in New York State

Brindisi has released the following statement:

"MMA has a large following in New York State, and now these fans will not have to travel to out of state venues to enjoy the sport.  Legalizing MMA will bring significant revenue to communities and arenas that host competitions.  I support this measure, because I am convinced these events will be properly regulated.  After being the only state in the nation prohibiting MMA events, it is time to allow New York’s MMA athletes to be able to participate and compete in their home state."

Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci (R-10) of Nassau County estimated an economic impact of more than $100 million for New York with MMA being allowed in the state.  Lupinacci who said his cousin is a boxer, reminded members, "just think of the pride that you can have when you can watch a family member or fellow New Yorker actually fight here in the state."

The Assembly bill was sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Morelle of Rochester, who was born in the Utica area. The senate bill was sponsored by Senator Joseph Griffo.

The NYS Senate has passed a “legalization’ bill sponsored by Senator Joe Griffo (R-Rome) for the last seven years. The most recent version passed last week.

Griffo released the following statement:

"ALBANY – State Senator Joseph Griffo announced Tuesday that the New York State Assembly has finally joined the Senate in voting to legalize mixed martial arts in New York State.

For the past seven years, Senator Griffo has continuously sponsored legislation to allow New York MMA fighters the privilege of competing professionally in their own home state, with the same strict safety guidelines that regulate other professional sports.

photo courtesy of Senator Joseph Griffo's Office
photo courtesy of Senator Joseph Griffo's Office

While the State Senate has repeatedly voted each of those years to approve Senator Griffo’s bill (S5949A), the Assembly has never taken up the bill in the past. But with overwhelming support this year, the Assembly finally did the right thing in allowing its members to vote their conscience, Griffo said.

“It took us seven years, but now New York State can finally make these competitive fighters proud by showing that we never gave up until they were allowed to compete in their own home state,” said Senator Griffo, R-Rome. “I am proud to have led the charge in the Senate from the start to lift the statewide ban on professional mixed martial arts, and I thank the Assembly for finally joining us in this fight.”

This legislation now must be approved by the Governor, who has already expressed his support for legalizing MMA in his proposed budget earlier this year. By allowing professional MMA competitions in the state, a 2013 economic impact study estimated that these events could provide an economic boost of $135 million each year:  $68 million annually from these events, including $33 million generated in upstate cities alone, along with MMA training centers that could generate an added $67 million each year from their operations.

Most importantly, however, Senator Griffo noted that this legislation would ensure greater safety measures for combative fighters in NY by providing the same oversight as other professional sports through the New York State Athletic Commission.

The bill also includes a number of provisions regarding the health, safety and financial welfare of the participants in combative sports, as well as their spectators.

“As this competitive fighting continues to grow in popularity all across North America, it made absolutely no sense to maintain New York’s status as the only state that bans professional MMA,” Senator Griffo added. “Fans could watch it anytime on TV or attend the events in other states, and our own up-and-coming fighters would be limited to amateur competitions in New York that did not always guarantee the safest conditions for athletes and spectators. These athletes and their fans deserve better in New York, and I’m glad we can finally give them that opportunity.”

Senator Griffo also thanked Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, for his persistence as companion sponsor in bringing this bill to the Assembly for its long-awaited vote.

“This long-standing ban served no purpose but to put New York at a disadvantage on every level in the MMA arena – athletes were deprived of the honor and safety they deserved, fans were deprived of the enjoyment they demanded and communities were deprived of the economic benefit that would come from hosting these events,” Senator Griffo said. “I commend Assemblyman Morelle for recognizing how important this opportunity is to our state and its dedicated fighters, and I thank him for his support in leading this bill through the legislative process."


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