Thursday, May 26, 2011

Memorandum of Support: NYS Assembly Bill A04146

Establishes protocols for combative sports; authorizes mixed martial arts events in this state; establishes procedures for applications for licenses; establishes penalties for violations; imposes taxes on gross receipts of such events.

The Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York is a non-partisan group of organizations, gyms, business owners, and individuals who volunteer to support the legalization and regulation of mixed martial arts (MMA) in the state of New York. There are currently at least 260 gyms in New York State today where MMA is trained.[i]

The New York Legislature should support A04146 and advocate for an up or down vote on the Assembly floor for the following reasons:

1)    In 1997 when "No Holds Barred (NHB)" or "Ultimate Fighting" was criminalized, the target activity was completely incongruous to the professional and amateur sport practiced today around the world and in 45 US States. New York is only one of three states with athletic commissions that do not regulate MMA. Since the year 2000 when the unified rules[ii] were adopted in California, and 2001 when the first regulated event was held in New Jersey, MMA has grown to be one of the most regulated sports practiced today. The sport of MMA we see today simply did not exist in 1997. Inasmuch, the old 1997 ban, along with its out-dated rationale, should not apply to the professional sport of MMA practiced today.

2)    Today, MMA has the most stringent regulatory and medical requirements as well as a stellar safety record[iii] when compared to combat and contact sports already legal in New York.  Furthermore, all the physical and psychological benefits of traditional martial arts and combat sports that form the foundation of MMA (boxing, Karate, Judo, Tae Kwon Do, wrestling, etc) are still present and accounted for in MMA. Simply put, MMA can be seen as a combination of the Olympic sports of boxing, wrestling, Judo, and Tae Kwon Do. In the end, regulating professional sports is the responsibility of NY State to its citizens. To not regulate MMA with full knowledge that there are unregulated shows occurring[iv] is unethical and places the safety of NY athletes at risk.

3)    By legalizing and regulating the universally accepted amateur and professional sport of MMA, New York has the rare opportunity to generate 23+ million dollars annually from just two A level professional events[v]; all without creating a single new tax burden on our citizens. Furthermore, the growth of MMA related industry (gyms, clothing companies, tourism, television programming, etc) and smaller B level, amateur, and local events will contribute millions of dollars more to our state's recovery. Essentially, MMA equates with jobs and income for New York State. To continue criminalizing the sport and allowing neighboring states and countries to financially benefit as a result of New York’s out-dated 1990's rationale indicates fiscal irresponsibility during one of New York's darkest economic periods.

In conclusion, I would once again urge all members of the Assembly to re-read the March 15th memo authored by Chairman of Labor, Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright[vi]. Assemblyman Wright clearly outlines why legalization and regulation of MMA in New York is imperative this year.  I urge all members of the Assembly to follow the lead of the Senate where companion legislation S1707A passed with an overwhelming majority of 42-18 (as compared to last year’s 32-26 Senate vote). Finally, I strongly recommend that all Assembly members join the ranks of Governor George Pataki and Senator John McCain, who once led the oppositional charge, but now acknowledge that MMA has evolved far past its neanderthal roots and blossomed into a worldwide professional sport[vii].

Stephen Koepfer
Founder, Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York

[ii] Association of Boxing Commissions. SUMMARY REPORT: Discussion and Review of UNIFIED RULES OF MIXED MARTIAL ARTS.

[iii] Journal of Sports Science and Medicine (2006) CSSI, 136-142. Incidents of Injury in Professional Mixed Martial Arts Competitions. Bledsoe, G. H., Hsu, E.B., Grabowski, J.G., Brill, J.D., and Li, G.

[iv] ESPN. February 16, 2011. New York MMA: An underground story. Josh Gross.

[vi] NYMMANOW. Wright is Right! A Message to NYS Assembly and New Yorkers.

[vii] Huffington Post. March 23, 2011. Mixed Martial Arts in New York: Still Fighting for the Right. Steven Jefferies.

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