New York Lawmaker Wants To Put A Chokehold on Mixed Martial Arts

by Claudia Morell
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US Department of Defense, flickr

The state banned the sport in 1997, but a new debate on overturning the ban has surfaced.

New York State Senator Brad Hoylman wants to make sure the state doesn't lift its 16 year ban on professional cage fighting and Mixed Martial Arts, or MMA.

Hoylman said the sport, which includes boxing, judo, wrestling and kickboxing, is not only too violent to watch, it is dangerous for the fighters involved.

"I'm concerned about the fighters,” said Hoylman, “I recently met a fighter named Nick Dennis who left the sport because of injuries to his brain, and is concerned about the long term health impact he is going to have to endure after he retires."

Hoylman said the health consequences of the sport, haven't been properly evaluated. He is co-sponsoring a bill with State Senator Liz Krueger that would put a two year moratorium on MMA until a health study is completed.

The state senate passed legislation lifting the ban last month. A similar bill to legalize and regulate the combat sport awaits a vote in the Assembly.

The Senate has passed similar bills in the past, with the Assembly blocking each attempt. But that could change this time around as Governor Cuomo has voiced support for the sport as a way to spur tourism. A recent public opinion poll also finds growing support for the sport.

Siena College finds 43% of voters support lifting the ban, while 33% oppose. Comparing those numbers with last year’s split of 32%-to-26%, SRI’s Director Dr. Don Levy said, “MMA has plurality support in every region, is strongly endorsed by young people and has majority support among men and sports fans. Older New Yorkers tend to oppose legalization while it is a toss-up among women and those that say they are not sports fans.”

But Hoylman said that should not be a guiding factor for lawmakers, "I don't think we should be making our public policy decisions, particularly concerning the health and welfare of our citizens, based on public opinion polls."

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