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By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Will 2012 finally be the year MMA comes to the state of New York? For the third straight year, the New York State Senate has passed a bill that would lift the ban on the sport and lead to its regulation in the state, but it now heads to the State Assembly, where it has been shut down time and time again.
Bill S.1707-A was approved by a margin of 43-14, besting last year's vote on an MMA bill of 42-18. Strikeforce Women's Bantamweight Champion Ronda Rousey appeared before the Senate on Wednesday in support of the bill, urging state senators to pass it, and now it will come before the assembly.
"We would like to thank the New York State Senate for passing the bill to legalize and regulate MMA for the third time in the last three years," UFC Chairman & CEO Lorenzo Fertitta stated in a press release (via MMAFighting.com). "We are hopeful the third time will be the charm with the State Assembly. The bill received overwhelming and bipartisan support and we would especially like to recognize the leadership of the Senate sponsor Joseph Griffo.
"Over the next two months, we will focus our efforts on convincing Assembly leadership that this bill, now sponsored by Assemblyman Joe Morelle – who is a Monroe County native just like UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones – should be brought to the floor of the Assembly for a vote, where we are convinced it will have strong bipartisan support."
The Senate's approval doesn't quell the opposition the sport continues to face in the Assembly, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver continues to have "mixed feelings" regarding the sport, as he told the Albany Times-Union.
"I have mixed feelings about it," Silver said. "On the one hand I do believe it's rather violent and it sets a tone for people. On the other hand, you can turn on the television and see it, a child can see it from their homes on a regular TV and we're one of the few states that don't legalize it. Obviously legalization comes with regulation, and we may be better off having regulation."
"Members control the process. The bill is in the legislative process at this point. We have a committee-driven process and we'll see what happens. There's a lot of sentiment for it and there's a lot of sentiment against it."
Penick's Analysis: The current ban on the sport only makes it so promoters and fighters can't make money in the state. And because of that, the economic impact of a major UFC event in the state is also nonexistent. But MMA fans in New York do still have access to the sport on television, and they can travel to other states, even those surrounding New York, to see major events, again taking business out of the state. Because of those factors, perhaps some of the sports detractors in the Assembly will finally come around to letting the sport be contested within their borders.
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Jamie Penick, editor-in-chief
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