FanShot

Jon Jones: Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York

Critics of MMA have claimed different reasons for opposing regulation. But as our millions of fans and anyone who has been paying attention knows, these claims don't hold up. First they said it wasn't a real sport. But MMA is the fastest-growing sport in the world, sets event gate and concession records, and millions watch fights on pay-per-view TV. We are highly trained athletes, Olympians and All-American college wrestlers. MMA has gone mainstream. Fighters appear in ads for Microsoft, and UFC sponsors include the Marines, Harley Davidson and Anheuser-Busch. And it's hard to argue with dollar figures. A recent study found New York regulation would generate $23 million in economic activity and create hundreds of local jobs. Then detractors said it wasn't safe. But we have some of the most rigorous safety standards, drug testing and officiating in professional sports. All that our critics have left to say is MMA is barbaric. It is full of strategy, fluidity. Highly conditioned athletes look for momentary points of leverage and advantage — combining karate, jiu jitsu, wrestling and kickboxing, which can take decades to master. MMA isn't for everyone. But to call it brutal is to misunderstand the sport, its athletes and its fans. We're not masochists, we're college graduates, role models, Olympic champions. We have a greater safety record than the NFL and boxing, and with millions of fans, we are not going away.

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