New York legalizes MMA after nearly 20-year ban

Nissi Icasiano
New York legalizes MMA after nearly 20-year ban
New York was the last remaining state in the United States where professional mixed martial arts was outlawed

MANILA, Philippines – Mixed martial arts (MMA) has achieved another milestone in its young existence as the state of New York has finally lifted the ban on the sport following a nearly 20-year battle for its legalization.

After making it onto the Assembly floor for the first time in 7 years, a bill to legalize MMA in New York passed with a 113-to-25 margin on Wednesday, March 23 (Manila time).

MMA will fall under the jurisdiction of the New York State Athletic Commission, which has 120 days to adopt the necessary statutes to regulate the sport.

In addition, the aforementioned bill also regulates MMA on an amateur level, which is an often-overlooked aspect of the framework as previous drafts excluded it.

Former New York governor George Pataki first banned MMA in 1997 when it was still a largely unregulated sport with few rules to govern the athletes dishing out punishment inside the cage.

State athletic commissions in New Jersey and Nevada helped to create a new rule-set that turned out to be the standard for MMA.

Slowly but surely, MMA became legal across the United States, with New York as the last state joining the other 49 that already allow and regulate the sport.

The bill still requires the signature of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, which should be a formality as he already expressed his support for the sport this year by including professional MMA revenue in his proposed budget.

The Ultimate Fighting Championship intends to host multiple events per year in several locations in New York and could stage a fight card in Madison Square Garden in November.

“This has been a long time coming, and on behalf of our New York UFC athletes and fans, I want to offer heartfelt thanks to Speaker (Carl E.) Heastie, Majority Leader Morelle and all the members of the assembly – Democrats and Republicans – who voted for this bill,” UFC chief executive officer Lorenzo Fertitta said in a press statement.

UFC’s roster is peppered with fighters from New York, perhaps most famously including former light heavyweight titleholder Jon Jones and ex-middleweight kingpin Chris Weidman.

Before the ban in 1997, the world’s premier MMA organization held one live event in September 1995 in Buffalo, New York.

Aside from the UFC, Bellator MMA is already looking towards staging events in New York as well.

“The New York Assembly’s vote to legalize MMA is a watershed moment for this incredible sport. As someone who has been promoting combat sports for more than 30 years, this is a very exciting time for mixed martial arts,” Bellator president Scott Coker stated. –

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