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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
The fight to get mixed martial arts legalized in New York City may be continuing this month, as a bill to lift the ban on the sport is expected to be reintroduced in the coming days. Republican State Senator Joe Griffo, in an interview with the Albany Times-Union, said he hopes the bill will pass by the end of the month.
The Senate has gotten the bill through two years in a row, but it's stalled in the State Assembly both years. Backed by one of the sport's main critics in Assemblyman Bill Reilly, the bill hasn't yet been brought to a vote on the Assembly floor, but they're hoping to get it there this time around.
If Reilly has his way, however it won't make it there this year. Reilly sent a letter last month to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, imploring him not to support lifting the ban. This time, his harping point is the issue of concussions in the sport:
"While UFC officials and proponents argue that the type of head injuries suffered by MMA fighters are mild compared to the repeated hits to the head of other major sports including boxing and football, the evidence suggests otherwise," Reilly wrote. "That is, powerful knockout blows, repeated head trauma and concussions have serious consequences on the long term health of athletes. A recent study by National Geographic documents the severity of the hits by MMA fighters which exceed all other sports. Additionally, as MMA is a relatively new phenomenon, there have been no real long term studies such as those conducted by the NFL to indicate the impact to the health of aging or retired fighters."
"What does this mean for New York State? I believe in addition to the fact that the economic significance to the State of the legalization of MMA has been grossly overstated and that the violent nature of the sport is antithetical to the anti-violence message we are trying to deliver to children and adults, MMA would put New York State in a very precarious position. As fighters begin to retire and the impact of sustained head injuries comes to bear, I believe lawsuits similar to those now exploding in the NFL by retired players, are a very real possibility the State would have to address. Additionally, should MMA become legalized in New York State, we would have to examine the very real issue of the high cost of medical treatment and care for injured and debilitated fighters."
UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones, a native of New York State, was quoted in both pieces by the Times-Union, addressing Reilly's latest criticisms, and touting the level of interest in New York of his fight with Rashad Evans later this month.
"With all due respect to the guy, he's making excuses," Jones said of Reilly. "There's concussions in every sport. Boxing is legal in New York state. A guy can get a concussion, take a 10 count, then get back up and get another one. In UFC, we get knocked down, it's over."
"To a lot of New Yorkers, this fight is just as important as any Yankees game, or Mets game, or any Rangers game," Jones said of the sport's impact. "UFC has slowly taken over the sports world. There are tons of fans in the state that would want to see this in person. If this were to be in Madison Square Garden, it would sell out in a day. The money New York is leaving behind is crazy."
Penick's Analysis: This is the same thing we're seemingly discussing every year when it comes to New York. There are arguments from the critics, rebuttals from the supporters, and regardless of any rebuttals the bill doesn't make it to a vote in the Assembly. I'm not sure what, if anything, will change this time around, but they're continuing to push it. It's just a matter of time before the ban finally does get lifted, but the same issues they've faced politically are still there. One of the big travesties with the situation is the fact that amateur MMA is being allowed in the state unregulated, leading to a whole mess of other issues. The UFC and New York's MMA fans can hope it's going to be passed this year, but history may just repeat itself again this year.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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