New York Senate votes for legalizing mixed martial arts

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. -- The New York Senate voted on Tuesday for the fifth straight year for legalizing professional mixed martial arts and ending the state's position as the last one to prohibit the sport.

The Senate bill, approved 47-14, would authorize the New York State Athletic Commission to regulate MMA as it does professional boxing. The bill would have to be passed by the Assembly and then signed by Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who has indicated he supports it.

With MMA star Ronda Rousey in Albany on Monday and Tuesday lobbying for its passage, supporters in the Democrat-controlled Assembly said they believe momentum is building.

"She could have fought a whole career in the amount of time we debated this bill," said Sen. Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat.

He said he hopes to see the sport soon in Brooklyn's Barclays Center and said one event would bring $16 million to Madison Square Garden. Contrary to some of the fiction around the sport, he said, more bouts end in submissions than in knockouts.

Rousey's latest match ended in 14 seconds when her opponent yielded with her arm bent painfully against the joint. It's the Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight queen's signature move, the arm bar, which she learned as a judo practitioner who won an Olympic bronze medal.

The Assembly's majority Democratic Conference, where the legalization bill has foundered in the past, is expected to consider it again after a state budget is adopted for the fiscal year that starts April 1.

Assemblyman Angelo Santabarbara, a Rotterdam Democrat, said they now have nearly a majority of the chamber as sponsors of the legalization bill.

Sens. Liz Krueger and Brad Hoylman, Manhattan Democrats, voted no and noted medical journal studies logging knockouts and technical knockouts in the televised professional sport, concluding its fighters suffer more brain traumas than athletes in football, boxing or hockey. They also questioned the adequacy in the legislation for $50,000 of medical coverage for injuries suffered in pro fights.

Hoylman proposed establishing a compensation fund that would be paid for by promoters, broadcasters and others making money off the sport to cover fighters' injuries, including brain damage that could appear years later. A similar bill is pending in the Assembly.

Sen. Joe Griffo, an Oneida County Republican and the lead Senate sponsor, said it will establish safety regulations, medical oversight, referees and the ability for the athletic commission to make more rules.

Rousey, who's 11-0, said she hasn't had a concussion or any other serious injury in this sport as a professional and had several as an amateur competing in judo. She declined to say how much she gets for a bout but said she recently paid cash for a beach house in Venice, California, and could retire though she plans to keep fighting.

Asked about a compensation fund, she said, "Anything that's for protection of fighters I'm always up for."