By Mark La Monica
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo showed his support for legalizing mixed martial arts in New York on Wednesday by including language in favor of it in his budget proposal.
In the past two years, Gov. Cuomo has made pro-MMA comments in terms of it being a possible new revenue stream for the state, but the proposed budget revealed Wednesday is his most overt sign of support.
New York remains the only state with a ban on professional mixed martial arts. Amateur MMA remains legal, but it is unregulated and unsanctioned by the state.
Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposal provides for the New York State Athletic Commission to oversee MMA regulation, same as it does for boxing.
”New York is the only state in the nation that does not allow professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) contests,” read Gov. Cuomo’s proposal for legalizing MMA in his State of the State book. “Thousands of New Yorkers attend dozens of unregulated amateur MMA events in New York each year and unlicensed promoters organize and promote amateur MMA contests in all corners of New York State.
“The Governor seeks to authorize both amateur and professional MMA and will ensure that contests happen under either the supervision of the New York State Athletic Commission or an alternative authorized sanctioning entity. It will place firm controls on MMA, its participants and promoters that ensure the protection of fighters and fans.”
This is the first time since David A. Paterson was in office (2008-10) that a governor has included MMA revenue in his proposed budget.
The State Senate is expected to include MMA in its budget proposal too, as it has done for several years. The Senate also has voted in session each of the past six years to legalize the sport but the bill has stalled in the State Assembly each year.
The inclusion of MMA revenue in Cuomo’s proposed budget gives supporters of the sport encouragement that 2016 may finally be the year New York legalizes it. The UFC late last year announced a fight card for April 23 at Madison Square Garden pending the outcome of legislation.
If MMA authorization remains in the final budget that legislators and Cuomo approve – the deadline is March 31 – MMA, as a matter of law, would become legal in New York and would not need to be voted on separately by the Assembly.
“We are very pleased that, as part of his budget proposal, Gov. Cuomo has called for legalizing professional MMA in New York … and has asked the State Athletic Commission to regulate both professional and amateur MMA,” UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said in a statement. “It’s the right thing to do for fans and more importantly, it’s the right thing to do to help protect the health and safety of athletes. ”