Mixed Martial Arts finally set to be legalized in New York

The fight is nearly over.

After two decades of being the only state not to host Mixed Martial Arts (MMA), New York is finally on board and ready to rumble. On Wednesday, March 23, it was announced that the New York State Assembly has now approved legislation to authorize the popular sport that had been legal in all 49 states. The bill has also passed the Senate and is awaiting Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.

Local elected officials who have been in favor of legalizing the sport chimed in on the decision. “It’s an exciting moment for New York fans as we join the rest of the nation in legalizing the sport. This will help jump-start our state’s economy, attract tourism, create jobs and bring in additional tax revenue,” said Assemblymember Pam Harris.

Some are opposed to legalizing the sport due to its violent nature. However, under the proposal, the New York State Athletic Commission (NYSAC) would be given more authority to oversee all combative sports, including boxing, wrestling and kickboxing. The bill also requires the Department of State to study new ways to fund health care for fighters who develop degenerative brain conditions from injuries sustained in the ring and who then require long-term care.

Sports promoters would also be required to provide at least $50,000 in accident insurance coverage for competitions and at least $1 million, with a separate insurance benefit, for life-threatening brain injuries.

“I have always believed any type of sport, be it MMA or boxing, should be out in the open and regulated rather than underground,” added Assemblymember Joseph Lentol. “Not only are there economic benefits for the state, but the most important benefit is safety for those competing. I believe once other states adopted MMA and legislators saw that it could be efficiently regulated, as was the case with boxing, they were more comfortable discussing this sport.”

Not everyone is pleased with the sport coming to the state. “It is my belief that many of these states allowed this so-called sport long before we learned of the long term physical impacts of combative sports,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick of Manhattan.  “As we’ve seen from recent reports focused on the damage to National Football League (NFL) players, their injuries are wide-ranging and include declining cognitive ability.”

She also cited a study done by the American Journal of Sports Medicine. “This study indicates that there is a higher incidence of brain trauma in MMA than in boxing or other martial arts,” she said.

This past February, Borough President Eric Adams held a press conference at Barclays Center to voice his support for legalizing MMA. “It’s long overdue that this great economic engine and sport initiative should find its home in the largest arena possible, and that is in Brooklyn, New York City and New York State,” he said at the time. He also stated that it could generate $5.4 million each year in local and state tax revenue.

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