Lift the Ban Watch: Former New York State Governor Patakai Now Favors Legalization of Mixed Martial Arts

Manhattanskyline_mediumProponents of MMA legalization are striking the right tone with legislators by tying in efforts at sanctioning to closing budget shortfalls in the state government:

New York state should legalize "ultimate fighting" to help close a $7 billion deficit, Governor David Paterson said on Monday, though a previous Republican governor outlawed the sport.

The contests, which combine martial arts with boxing and allow contestants to use choke holds, could boost hotel and sales tax revenues. The sport's main sponsor, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, says 42 states have approved regulations for these matches, according to its web site.

Governor George Pataki in 1997 said the no-holds sport was "barbaric" and placed a ban on it.

He did, indeed, say that. Except now he's formally changed his position:

Former Gov. George Pataki, who once called ultimate fighting barbaric and had it banned in 2001 in New York, now supports its legalization.

"With more rigorous oversight, training and medical requirements - mixed martial arts has made considerable strides to ensure the safety of participants," said Pataki spokesman David Catalfamo.

"With these measures in mind, Gov. Pataki would be supportive of allowing the sport in New York in today," he told the Daily News.

...

The News reported yesterday that Gov. Paterson plans to include a call to legalize the controversial sport in his 2010-11 budget proposal due out next week.

If it's budget pressure and less intellectual firepower that forces legislators to bend, so be it. By hook or by crook, the train on MMA legalization appears to have left the station. And I have to commend the UFC's efforts: while reaching out to thought leaders in the media would've been nice, the real key was establishing the correct talking points backed in deliverable data for lawmakers. They did that very, very well.

We can't count our chickens before they've hatched, but Pataki's sanctioning should help corral support from key constituencies and is evidence of the substantial progress made by the UFC's lobbyists.

As a Washington, DC resident, I have no choice but to respect that. They have thus far played the game well.

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