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Crowley: Time to legalize MMA in New York

Chris Weidman celebrates after defeating Anderson Silva. (July

Chris Weidman celebrates after defeating Anderson Silva. (July 6, 2013) Credit: Newsday/Mario Gonzalez

Chris Weidman shocked the Ultimate Fighting Championship world on Sunday by accomplishing what seemed impossible, knocking out undefeated middleweight champion Anderson Silva. Weidman trained for many arduous weeks in order to physically and mentally prepare to take on Silva. But the biggest fight of his career may be convincing the state Assembly to lift the ban on mixed martial arts in New York.

For seven consecutive years the state Senate has passed legislation calling for the legalization of profesional MMA fighting, but each year the Assembly has either refuised to bring it to teh floor or rejected it. At the forefront of the dissent is speaker Sheldon Silver, backed by female Democrats who believe MMA promotes a culture of violence, misogyny, and homophobia.

For those who don’t know, MMA is a full-contact combat sport that uses a combination of fighting such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Taekwondo, wrestling and kickboxing. The most grueling apspect of the sport, what seperates it from others, is that fighters are allowed to strike an opponent while he is still on the ground.

Earlier this year, Zuffa, a parent company of UFC, lost its bid to have the state’s ban declared unconstitutional, arguing . A federal district court judge in Manhattan ruled that amateur fights were legal but left the future of professional fights in the hands of the legislature.

Assemb. Margaret Markey, D-Queens, believes that MMA should be kept illegal because brain injury and disease as a result of fighting have long-term health consquences for participants. But how does this differ from any other contact sport? If that’s the case, then football,from Pee Wee to the NFL, should be illegal as well due to the outstanding number of concussions suffered by athletes that can result in long-term brain injury, memory loss, dementia, depression, and even suicide.

Markey also argues that MMA fighters receive less medical attention than athletes in other professional sports, like hockey. However, since banning professional MMA fights, many amateur leagues have been popping up all around the state, and they are far more dangerous than professional leagues. If the fights were given professional status, more rules would be in place regarding referees and medical aid. But in amateur leagues, such as the Underground Combat League (UCL), referees aren’t trained, the fighters aren’t insured, the conduct rules on the actual combat aren’t set in stone and players aren’t tested for performance enhancing drugs and communicable diseases before fighting. A player taking steriods or who has Hepatitis can still fight. By legalizing professional MMA fighting in New York, fighters might be encouraged to stay clean in hopes of making it to the big leagues.

Legalizing professional MMA fighting can have a substantial economic impact as well. UFC reported that legalizing the sport will bring in $100 million to New York, two-thirds of the revenue benefiting upstate cities.

First, though, the state Assembly has to step into the ring and legalize it.