On Saturday night, two New York natives will fight each other in a mixed martial arts bout through the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the world’s largest promotion company for MMA. But the fight won’t be happening at Madison Square Garden. MMA is banned in the state.
Mixed martial arts, otherwise known as MMA, combines boxing, wrestling, kickboxing, jujitsu and other forms of striking and grappling techniques. It is currently legal in 45 states. New York allows amateur matches, but not professional bouts.
This week, the State Senate passed a bill for the third time in seven years that would remove the 15-year old ban on live professional MMA. The bill has been voted down twice by the State Assembly.
Opponents of legalizing MMA argue that the sport glorifies violence. But Jon Jones, who’s fighting Saturday night in Atlanta, said that’s a misconception.
“It’s not promoting killing, it’s not promoting gang violence or hurting or bullying or anything crazy like this. The benefit that come from martial arts — the positives — that come from martial arts outweighs the fact that the sport is violent,” he said. “MMA promotes self-discipline and sportsmanship.”
Jones, who’s from Endicott, NY, hopes to eventually have a match in his home state.
But if Democratic Assemblyman Bob Reilly has any say, that won’t happen. “In the State Legislature, we’re trying to eradicate violence — anti-bullying, anti-domestic violence,” Reilly said. “We’re trying to teach, especially children, that violence is not acceptable.”
Republican Senator Joseph Griffo, a sponsor of the bill lifting the ban, says doing so would give the State Athletic Commission the proper authority to address any health and safety concerns.
State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has mixed feelings about mixed martial arts.
“I do believe it’s rather violent. It sets a tone for people,” Silver said at an Albany press conference on Wednesday. “On the other hand, I can turn on my television and see it. Every child can see it in their homes on regular TV.”
The bill could be eligible for a vote on the Assembly floor as early as the end of this month.