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MMA in New York: Round 4 begins

Lorenzo Fertitta, UFC chairman and CEO, speaks during

Lorenzo Fertitta, UFC chairman and CEO, speaks during a press conference to announce their commitment to bring UFC to Madison Square Garden and New York State once MMA is legalized, Jan. 13, 2011. Credit: Getty

Once more, the fight has begun.

The continued struggled to legalize mixed martial arts in the state of New York started yet another run with an easy passing by the Senate committee for Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation on Monday. The bill has now been committed to the Senate committee on Commerce, Economic Development and Small Business.

"The UFC announced this very week that the UFC light heavyweight title bout between two New Yorkers – champion Jon Jones of Rochester and challenger Rashad Evans of Niagara Falls – will be held in Atlanta in April," UFC CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said. "It is a shame that such a huge event, which will attract fan and media attention around the world, between two New Yorkers cannot be held in their home state.”

Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue), who championed the cause in 2011 as well, wants Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to include the bill in his executive budget 30-day amendments. Cuomo has until Thursday, Feb. 16, to file those amendments.

Should he include MMA in his budget amendments, and that budget is passed (April 1 deadline), MMA would be legal in New York without going through an exhaustive legislative battle again this year.

"Keeping live MMA events out of New York does not prevent New Yorkers from watching - it simply keeps New Yorkers from reaping the economic benefits of this professional sport,"  Murray  wrote in a letter hand-delivered to Gov. Cuomo. "Mixed martial arts can be seen on television on Fox Sports, Showtime, Spike TV, Versus and on Pay Per View, yet seeing an event live and in person in New York State is illegal."

Passing through the Senate has been easy for MMA of late. The bill -- No. S1707 -- passed by a vote of 42-18 in May 2011, then went through both the Tourism and Codes committees in the Assembly. It then stalled in the Ways and Means Committee and never reached the Assembly floor for a full vote. It is believed by many associated with the bill that it has the necessary votes to pass a floor vote.

The legislation "establishes protocols for combative sports; authorizes mixed martial arts events in this state; establishes procedures for applications for licenses; establishes penalties for violations; imposes taxes on gross receipts of such events."

In other words, it seeks to legalize and regulate the sport of MMA under the guidance of the New York State Athletic Commission and generate revenue for the state through sales taxes. A study commissioned by the UFC and released in January 2011 estimated that MMA could generate more than $23 million in economic impact for the state. That study included ticket sales, hotel stays, shopping, restaurants and other expenses typically associated with traveling to a city. It also reflects any and all MMA events in New York, not just UFC-sponsored fight cards.

There is still also the matter of Zuffa LLC's lawsuit against New York State claiming the ban on MMA is a violation of First Amendment rights.

 

Below is the entirety of Murray's letter to Gov. Cuomo:

The Honorable Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor, State of New York
NYS State Capitol
Executive Chamber
Albany, NY 12224

Dear Governor Cuomo:

I am writing to request that you include the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in your Executive Budget 30-day amendments. Working together, in a bi-partisan manner, we were able to accomplish quite a bit last year by taking a “what’s best for New York” approach. We have taken some positive steps forward in creating a more business friendly environment and showing that New York is in fact, “open for business”.

However, as our budgetary problems continue to mount and revenue to New York State continues to dwindle, it is imperative for us to think outside of the box for innovative and thoughtful solutions.

As you and I have discussed on many occasions, one such solution would be the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in New York. Recent independent studies have projected that holding just four major shows and a few minor shows in venues across the state will result in $23 million to $40 million in economic impact in the first year alone.

Keeping live MMA events out of New York does not prevent New Yorkers from watching - it simply keeps New Yorkers from reaping the economic benefits of this professional sport. Mixed martial arts can be seen on television on Fox Sports, Showtime, Spike TV, Versus and on Pay Per View, yet seeing an event live and in person in New York State is illegal.

In these dismal economic times, the positive fiscal impact to legalizing mixed martial arts can no longer be ignored. I respectfully request that you include the revenue that would be generated by the legalization of mixed martial arts in your 30-day amendment to your proposed 2012 budget.

Sincerely

DEAN MURRAY
Member of Assembly
Third District

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