Posted at: 03/06/2013 11:40 PM
By: Dan Levy
ALBANY - The State Senate on Wednesday passed a bill that would lift the ban on mixed martial arts (MMA) in New York. The measure sill needs to be approved by the assembly and by Governor Cuomo.
The sport has been banned in New York since 1997.
"We've had numerous fighters here at my gym that have gone to Massachusetts or Pennsylvania, or other states that offer it," said ex-boxer-turned-MMA promoter Shawn Miller inside his Cohoes gym. "If it does get passed, which we hope it's going to be, then they can fight right here in New York to bring in the revenue that we should be getting."
Some say MMA would mean tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue for the state, which is one of only two states -- along with Connecticut -- that prohibit it.
In an interview with News Channel 13 last summer (August 2012), retired State Athletic Commissioner Jack Prenderville said he was against lifting the ban.
"If you're thinking about the money alone, it's not enough for me," Prenderville said from inside his Albany home. "I think it has to be done with a lot of care, a lot of concern, and a lot of responsibility to put it on correctly."
Shawn Miller said people who say the sport is barbaric don't understand the sport, "They haven't been educated enough," he says.
Meanwhile, at the State Capitol on Wednesday, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D - Manhattan), said he personally disapproves of the sport, but acknowledged legislative approval seems inevitable.
"We're not going to wall off our children from seeing it," Silver said. "It's readily available to them and if there's a revenue stream, it might as well come to New York."
Silver said there will probably be approval in the state although he wouldn't offer when that time might come.
The most vocal legislative critic of the sport in recent years has been assemblyman Bob Reilly (D - Colonie), but Reilly is now retired, and some lawmakers are saying that's the reason they expect smoother sailing for the bill this time around.