Saturday, June 27, 2015

No MMA in 2015: Heastie Shows His True Colors

Fear not New Yorkers! At the conclusion of the New York legislative calendar, our state now has a Chicken Wing Day, a state amphibian (the wood frog), horse racing is now legal on Palm Sunday, and you can bring your pet dog to your favorite outdoor cafe! But, mixed martial arts still remains unregulated for our amateurs and completely banned for our professionals.

After what may have been the largest rallying of support by the MMA community we have ever seen in NY, newly minted Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie fails to move the the combat sports bill forward for a vote. Once again, the bill that could have brought regulated MMA (and other amateur combat sports like kickboxing) to New York dies without ever being voted upon by our elected representatives. Adding salt to the wound was the fact that A02604 is an extremely progressive bill, which could have had positive trend setting implications for the sport as a whole.

Nevertheless, despite passing in the Senate twice (both the original and amended versions of the legislation), apparent support by Governor Cuomo and a vast majority of support in the Assembly, Heastie demonstrated that he was very willing to sacrifice the health and safety of New York athletes by choosing not to rise above the disingenuous partisan politics enacted by his predecessor. In the end, as a past co-sponsor of the New York MMA bill, Heastie proved himself to be worse than Sheldon Silver. At least with Silver, we knew where we stood. Heastie was a wolf in sheep's clothing.

This May, 2015 letter I received from Heastie's office was more prophetic than it seemed:

Since 2012 at least five amateur combat sports athletes have died in unregulated or poorly regulated amateur MMA and kickboxing events nationally. Let's not forget about the dozen or so amateur MMA fighters & kickboxers who have been able to fight in New York's unregulated amateur circuit despite having been suspended from competition by other state athletic commissions for HIV, Hepatitis, and other prohibitive medical conditions.

Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports sums it up perfectly:
Thus, it's going to be at least another year until there is a legal MMA card in New York.
There may be several hundred illegal* ones, though, and without adequate regulation and medical care someone could be seriously injured. If that happens – and I pray to God that it doesn't – the person's blood will be on the hands of the governor, the legislators and everyone else who worked to block this bill's passage.
*There will likely not be hundreds of illegal MMA events in NY as amateur events are legal and pro does not exist in NY, except rarely on Native land. There are however, many unregulated by the state athletic commission - fifty four in 2014. Still, Iole's point remains frightening accurate.

For a breakdown of what went right and wrong with this year's round of fighting, check out this piece by Jim Genia.

I leave you with a small fraction from the last week on that modern day ticker tape that is twitter:

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