Jeff Monaski, WIBX

Utica, NY (WIBX) - New York is the only state that bans MMA fighting, and the sports' largest brand, Ultimate Fighting Championship, is suing to change that.

UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta was at The Cage bar and restaurant in Utica today to discuss the ban, which he says is a violation of the first amendment and the right of athletes to express themselves, including athletes like Matt 'The Hammer' Hamill, who is deaf, but had a successful career as a mixed martial arts fighter in the UFC.

"[Matt] goes out and proves and expresses himself to show that even though he has a handicap, he can compete at the highest level. And, he shows people who have a similar handicap that nothing can hold you back...that if you work hard enough you can be whatever you want to be," Fertitta said.

Fertitta says studies conducted by thrid parities, including Johns Hopkins University, found that MMA fighting has a lower injury rate that football, boxing, hockey and even cheerleading.

And, he says the state would see a significant financial impact.

A UFC event held in Toronto in April created a $35-million impact to the community, plus it generated $8-million in state, local and federal taxes, he said.

Senator Joseph Griffo has sponsored two bills that would legalize the sport in New York. Twice the Senate has passed the measure passed but the legislation has been brought the floor of the Assembly for a vote. 

Hamill, UFC donate to NYS School for the Deaf in Rome

Before the news conference began, it was announced that Hamill was donation $600 to the New York State School for the Deaf in Rome, NY. The money came from the premiere of the movie 'The Hammer' which is based on Hamill's life.

Fertitta pledged to donate $5,000 to the school on behalf of the UFC.


Audio from Wednesday's news conference:

Fertitta discusses the lawsuit against New York State

Fertitta discusses violence and discipline of fighters

 Fertitta on evolution of MMA fighting and safety

MMA in Utica

Senator Griffo on why he supports legalization