Pro MMA to Remain Illegal in New York as Bill Loses Momentum in State Legislature

By Tristen Critchfield Jun 25, 2015

An Ultimate Fighting Championship event at New York’s iconic Madison Square Garden remains the dream for many a mixed martial arts supporter, but for now, a dream is all it appears to be.

Despite considerable optimism in recent months, a bill to legalize MMA in New York is expected to die before reaching a vote in the state’s assembly on Thursday.

“My big challenge today is that a number of members who are counted as supporters were just unavailable today because of the scheduling, that we weren’t expected to be here this long,” Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, the bill’s sponsor, told Gannett’s Albany Bureau (via Politics on the Hudson).

The current legislative session extended longer than initially expected due to votes on a number of high-profile bills. As a result, the MMA bill lost momentum, making it difficult to garner the 76 votes -- out of 105 Democratic conference members -- necessary for the bill to make it onto the assembly floor.

The measure has passed in the Republican-led Senate for the past six years. However, without the support of the Democrats the MMA bill is destined to meet a familiar fate.

“I’m not going to have a different standard for bills sponsored by Joe Morelle than I would have for any other member – which is I don’t rely on minority votes to pass bills,” Morelle said. “I’ll work as long as I have to work to get them, but that’s the rule.”

The UFC was confident enough that the bill would pass this time around that it reportedly reserved a December date for an event at Madison Square Garden. Had that come to fruition, it is possible the card could have been headlined by a middleweight title bout between New York native Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold.

“I’m not missing the Madison Square Garden fight, that’s for sure. That’s all I really care about,” Weidman said following UFC 187. “You can ask me about ‘Jacare’ or Rockhold, honestly it doesn’t matter. I want to fight either one of them, but in Madison Square Garden. As long as I’m in that venue, I’m a happy man. That’s a dream.”

While New York law bans professional mixed martial arts, amateur MMA and kickboxing is legal in the state. However, the New York State Athletic commission plays no part in regulating these events. Instead, that duty is often handled by private organizations.

Even with nothing likely to change MMA’s current standing in New York, Morelle has no plans on giving up.

“So we’ll keep working, and I’m confident that the next time we reconvene, I’m going to redouble my efforts,” he said.


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