Maybe the strong lobbying forces of the industry, along with the absence of its key opponent, made New York’s legislative agreement on mixed martial arts inevitable.
The horse is out of the barn now that the Assembly, a long holdout under former speaker Sheldon Silver, has given its approval. The Senate has done so for six years, including this year. And Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo reaffirmed his support for the MMA industry and is expected to sign the bill.
Now it is up to the state to monitor what many call a blood sport and act expeditiously at the first hint of a problem. The governor said there is a plan to have the bouts regulated by the state Athletic Commission, which now oversees pro boxing matches in New York.
The first permitted pro matches are expected to be staged about six months after the bill becomes law. MMA has plenty of detractors despite the 113-25 vote. There was a debate of more than three hours, as reported in The News.
This was a difficult fight in which the industry was willing to go the distance, spending millions over the years on campaign contributions, lobbying and public relations campaigns. It found an opening once Silver, D-Manhattan, who stood as the single impediment to the bill over the years, left. He was convicted in December on federal corruption charges.
Silver’s replacement, Carl E. Heastie, D-Bronx, proved friendlier, clearing the way for the bill to make it to the floor Tuesday. Let the short, intense rounds begin.
Assembly Majority Leader Joseph D. Morelle, D-Irondequoit, sponsored the legislation. He spoke of provisions to license fighters and requirements such as physical exams and concussion-related protections. For those vehemently opposed, “concussion-related protections” in reference to MMA is an absurdity.
Indeed, there are concerns in any sport involving such physical contact. There is heightened awareness around the negative effects of football. The News spotlight on former Buffalo Bills linebacker Darryl Talley focused on his health and subsequent financial issues following a career of hard hits.
Talley said he suffered dozens of concussions and worried about developing chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative brain disease caused by repeated head trauma. For now, only an autopsy can confirm that diagnosis. Several autopsies of professional football players have shown them to have had this disease. The New York Times recently published an in-depth investigation that found severe flaws in the NFL’s concussion research, “more flawed than previously known.” Concussions are not just a concern for football players. There are a number of contact sports that have drawn criticism. How many famous boxers have left the ring addled for the rest of their lives?
There is an argument to allow MMA. It’s money. Countless dollars are flowing to other states. The governor projected $1 million in boxing and wrestling tax revenues to the state in the coming year.
The deal is done. It should be closely monitored, for the sake of the participants.