MMA bill passes in N.Y. committee

Updated: February 28, 2013, 7:09 PM ET
By Franklin McNeil | ESPN.com

The latest move to legalize mixed martial arts in New York got off to a positive start Thursday as the state's Senate Committee on Cultural Affairs, Tourism, Parks and Recreation voted 11-3 on a bill in support of the sport.

The bill now heads to the Senate Finance Committee, which has yet to set a date for a vote on the matter. Committee members are expected to vote in favor of the bill.

"I know the Senate will again pass the bill this year, and I am hopeful that with the leadership of the Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle it will finally become law this year," Sen. Joseph A. Griffo said. "The legalization enjoys widespread, bipartisan support from upstate and downstate members in both houses.

"Legalizing MMA in New York will mean jobs and increased revenue. It will mean UFC, as well as other MMA promoters, will hold matches here. It means New York fans will no longer have to travel to New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and other states, but will be able to see live professional MMA in their local arenas."

For the past two years, bills legalizing MMA have received strong support in the New York State Senate, but not in the Assembly.

A bill that would have legalized MMA in New York was not voted on in May 2012, when Speaker Sheldon Silver conducted a closed-door informal vote during an Assembly Democratic conference. Afterward, Silver determined there wasn't enough support for MMA, and the bill never reached the Assembly floor for a vote.

But UFC chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta expressed optimism Thursday that the sport will be voted on by the Assembly this year and will become legal in New York.

"New York state's time has come," Fertitta said. "We are confident that 2013 is the year that the Empire State joins 48 other states in legalizing MMA.

"On behalf of millions of New York state UFC and MMA fans, I'm hoping that this year, finally, the Assembly will join the Senate in supporting this legislation to bring revenues to the state and to local governments across the state, produce desperately needed jobs, and allow New Yorkers to see UFC and professional MMA events live in their communities."

Opposition against the legalization of MMA in New York is loud. A letter from the labor and faith-based organizations was sent to Silver on Wednesday seeking his continued efforts to fight the passage of such a bill.

"In the wake of the tragic mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., it is unthinkable that lawmakers in any jurisdiction would risk exposing our children to an activity that involves extreme violence and brutality," the letter said.

Working Families Party executive director Daniel Cantor and Greater New York Labor-Religion Coalition executive director Michael Feinberg were among those who signed the letter.

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