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Lift The Ban Watch: Bill to Legalize MMA in New York Defeated? Edition

A forum poster at MMA Weekly says so:

Hey guys, I just came back from the Tourism Committee meeting in the NY State Assembly, and to my surprise, the bill which would regulated MMA in the state was defeated; only 3 people voted for it, with something like 13 against.

One of the Assembly members prefaced the bill with the typical arguments against, calling it savagely brutal, and making the argument that if we ban cockfighting, MMA should be banned too. Other members were so clueless, some asked if there was even a referee involved in the matches! This is surprising, because everybody was under the impression that the bill was going to move to the Assembly floor, however, the Democrats were not prepared for a controversial bill vote, with most not knowing what it even did. There weren't many positive arguments being made in favor of it, other than the sport would pack sports arenas. Even the sponsor of the bill (and committee chairman) Steve Englebright voted against it, without even giving any arguments in favor/opposed to.

The Republicans were prepared to vote in favor, however they were scared off by the majority being so opposed, and so all but our ranking member, Rob Walker, voted against it (Walker was very much in favor, as I had explained exactly to him exactly what the bill did and why its regulated in 30 other states).

Many important members on both sides of the aisle are in support of this bill, including the Republican minority leader. However, it seems that it has not been made a priority conference-wide, and therefore many members are unaware of what MMA even is and are easily swayed by an impassioned argument in opposition. I honestly believe the bill would have moved had the one member not stood up and implored everyone to vote down on the bill (this happens with many bills). Another factor: generation gap. Most members on the committee are very old, and don't understand aspects of the sport. It was as if it the debate was taking place in 1995, prior to regulations.

Very disheartening, and practically ensures that MMA won't be regulated in NY this year. UFC will probably have to start lobbying more of the members individually instead of just going to the leadership, as it is clear the leadership did not communicate the important/justification for such a bill. I get the feeling many members have the mentality of "I'll support it if you support it!", instead of being comfortable with and knowledgeable about what they're voting on.

Without getting independent confirmation, this is all unconfirmed at this point. However, if true, this is terribly disheartening. Zuffa has pumped a lot of time, money, lobbyists and effort into getting New York State - in many ways a crown jewel for fight sport venues - to sanction and regulate mixed martial arts. Stay tuned.

[UPATE]: A reader writes :

The bill actually did come out of committee, despite what was said at the committee meeting. There are 20 members of the committee and not all were present at the meeting, but it ended up passing 11-9. This page is not updated yet but you can check it for updates and it should reflect the committee action soon: A companion bill was also introduced in the Senate. So, there are still a lot of legislative steps left to go, but it’s not dead.

[UPDATE II]: The plot thickens: was informed by an anonymous source earlier this afternoon that the committee for Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development of New York recently held a vote on Wednesday to decide whether the state should regulate Mixed Martial Arts.

According to the source, the bill was voted down in overwhelming fashion.

An anonymous member of a major state athletic commission confirmed the information that was provided to Five Ounces Of Pain by our initial source.

This web site has also learned that the possible legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in the state of New York was the planned announcement that UFC president Dana White had hinted at during an interview that was published on last week.

According to a source, White was confident that the vote was going to pass and believed he had assurances that the proposed bill would be approved by the committee for Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development of New York. However, the proposal was unexpectedly voted down for reasons that are not yet clear. In a strange turn of events, it is believed that the chair of the committee, Assemblyman Steve Englebright, who introduced the proposal, ended up voting against it.


The bill was not passed in large part because of opposition from both sides. However, according to our source, a republican committee member “picked up the bill” and applied pressure after the session to have the vote passed. In another unusual development, several committee members, primarily republican but also a few democrat, attempted to change their vote.

Because of the attempt to change votes, it was decided that the bill will be placed on the agenda again early next week. Such a decision to put a bill back on the agenda so quickly after it had been voted down was described as “highly irregular.”

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