The Democrat-led New York State Assembly voted 113-25 on Tuesday to lift the state’s ban on professional mixed martial arts promotions.
Syracuse.com notes that the GOP-controlled New York State Senate had already passed its companion version of the bill in February.
Democratic N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who is expected to sign the bill into law, said on Tuesday according to the Saskatoon StarPhoenix, “I do support mixed martial arts because it’s also an economic generator.”
The Assembly vote represents the clearing of a final hurdle that had been blocking the legalization of live events in the state by popular sports promotions like Ultimate Fighting Championship for almost twenty years. The New York Senate had voted to legalize mixed martial arts for seven straight years, but the state’s lower house did not vote to legalize it until Tuesday. The ban had originally been signed into law by former Republican N.Y. Gov. George Pataki.
ESPN pointed out that another factor in the bill’s passage was the 2015 ouster of former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, an opponent of the legalization of MMA, after he was indicted on corruption charges. He was replaced by Speaker Carl E. Heastie, who had in the past sponsored an MMA legalization bill.
“When these events take place, these are big events. The time has come,” said Assemblyman Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue). He added that the bill will not just deliver “professional mixed martial arts to New York, but just as importantly what it will do is it’ll allow for rules and regulations that will offer protections for the amateur fighters as well.”
Bill opponent Assemblyman Daniel J. O’Donnell (D-Manhattan), who is openly gay, sparked controversy by saying while arguing against the bill: “You have two nearly naked, hot men, rolling around on top of one another trying to dominate each other. And in case you didn’t know, that’s gay porn with a different ending.”
Opponents in the legislature cited concerns about fighters’ health, and some raised allegations that the industry has deep ties to gambling organizations and encourages the use of performance enhancing drugs.
Mixed martial arts events will begin taking place in New York 120 days after the bill is signed by Gov. Cuomo. Once New York formally legalizes MMA, the sport will finally be legal in all 50 U.S. states.