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Despite studies suggesting potential for huge economic impact in cities such as Rochester, the bill to legalize mixed martial arts in New York State has once again been knocked down.
New York State Assembly speaker Sheldon Silver made the announcement after a closed-door meeting Tuesday. Silver said, in a statement, more than 40 of the Assembly Democrats opposed the bill and it would not go to a vote before the legislative session ends this week.
MMA is a combat sport somewhat similar to boxing, except competitors can use a variety of fighting techniques such as punching, kicking and submission holds to defeat their opponents while standing or on the floor.
Amateur fights are legal in the state, but not professional ones. Amateur bouts have slightly different rules from professional fights, but the biggest difference is that amateur fighters cannot be paid.
Professional MMA is recognized and regulated by 36 of 44 states that have athletic commissions, including New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Differing bills to legalize MMA in New York were introduced in the Assembly and Senate for the 2013 session. The bills have drawn the support of several Assembly members, including Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest MMA promotion in the world, has been touting a study that said the legalization of the sport would produce $23 million in annual economic impact in New York State, including $5.2 million of economic activity in Western, New York. The report focused specifically on New York City, Rochester, Buffalo, Syracuse and Niagara Falls.
Yet, at least this year, it was all for not.
“While our disappointment cannot be overstated, our commitment to seeing New York legalize the fastest growing sport in the nation and the world is intact and undeterred,” said Lorenzo Fertitta, chairman and CEO of the UFC, in a statement. “We continue to strongly believe that legalizing and regulating MMA in New York is the right thing for the state economically, the right thing for the millions of fans in New York and the right thing for the safety and benefit of the thousands of professional and amateur MMA athletes across the state.”
The UFC and other organizations held several rallies and conferences in Rochester and throughout New York State during the year to build momentum for the bill. Even Gov. Andrew Cuomo expressed his interest in the sport’s economic impact.
MMA has strong ties in the Rochester community, most notably the UFC’s current light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who is a Rochester native and widely considered one of the top-two pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
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