Legalize It, New York!


Many of you probably read the title of this blog and think you’re about to read about the legalization of marijuana.  Not this time, guys. Sorry if I’m disappointing anyone, but this is about the legalization of a sport – a sport that is currently unregulated and illegal in the state of New York. It is a sport where two opponents fight each other in a ring and attempt to score points by striking their adversary with such force that the blow knocks them down with the ultimate goal being to knock out your opponent. Based on that description it would seem like I was describing boxing, a sport that has been legal in the state of New York for the last 93 years.[1. USA: New York Laws,, (last visit February 10, 2013).] However, the sport that I described is not boxing; it is the sport of mixed martial arts (“MMA”).

Many NY state officials opposing the legalization of MMA argue that safety is their number one concern. Head injuries, and the lasting effects of concussions, have become the most prominent issue of all contact sports, especially our nation’s most popular sport in the NFL.[2. NFL Head Injuries,, (last visit February 10, 2013).] With about one of every three fights in the UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship, the largest MMA promotion company in the world) ending in a knock out,[3. UFC Stats,, (last visit February 10, 2013).] it seems that the argument citing head injuries and concussions is plausible. So much so that NYS Assemblyman Bob Reilly believes that MMA is too dangerous to legalize and similar sports that are already legal, like boxing, would not receive any political support if they were attempting to be legalized today.[4. From the Octagon to Albany: Why MMA isn’t legal in NY,, (last visit February 10, 2013).]


Is that really the case? If so, then why has MMA been legalized by 82 percent of all states that have an athletic commission?[5. Mixed Martial Arts In New York State Should Be Legalized: Assemblyman John Ceretto,, (last visit February 10, 2013).] The sport is not more or less dangerous when fought in one state or another and many in New York believe that without regulation by the state’s athletic commission the sport is actually more dangerous.[6. NY MMA legalization push continues,, (last visit February 10, 2013).] There are still MMA fights happening in New York; these fights are unregulated and are allowed as long as the fighters are not compensated.[7. Id.] These fights also pose a greater risk to the athletes as they proceed with out proper funding, regulated medical procedures and drug testing.[8. Id.]


Not only will those risks be avoided with MMA being regulated, but many believe New York State will thrive from the amount of revenue that could potentially be gained as well. NYS Assemblyman John Ceretto believes that the sport could generate $5.2 million a year in economic activity in Western New York alone.[9. Supra Note 5.] The total amount of revenue the state could generate would be staggering once allowed to host events in our largest cities and arenas including Madison Square Garden, “The World’s Most Famous Arena.” With the support of the Association of Boxing Commission,[10. Supra Note 6.] NYS Senators,[11. Supra Note 4.] President of UFC Dana White[12. Supra Note 6.] and many fighters across the nation, it seems likely that New York is on the verge of legalizing MMA and rightfully so.

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