Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo showed his support for legalizing mixed martial arts in New York on Wednesday by including language in favor of it in his budget proposal.
In the past two years, Gov. Cuomo has made a couple of pro-MMA comments in terms of it being a possible new revenue stream for the state, but Wednesday’s inclusion is his most overt sign of support.
New York remains the only state with a ban on professional mixed martial arts. Amateur MMA remains legal, but it is unregulated and unsanctioned by the state.
Gov. Cuomo’s budget proposal provides for the New York State Athletic Commission to oversee MMA regulation, same as it does for boxing.
“We are very pleased that, as part of his budget proposal, Governor Cuomo has called for legalizing professional MMA in New York — the only state in America where it is illegal — and has asked the State Athletic Commission to regulate both professional and amateur MMA,” UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said in a statement. “It’s the right thing to do for fans and more importantly, it’s the right thing to do to help protect the health and safety of athletes.”
This is the first time since David A. Paterson was in office (2008-10) that a governor has included MMA revenue in his proposed budget.
The State Senate is expected to include MMA in its budget proposal too, as it has done for several years. The Senate also has voted in session each of the past six years to legalize the sport.
But the bill has stalled in the State Assembly each year.
The inclusion of MMA revenue in Cuomo’s proposed budget gives supporters of the sport encouragement that 2016 may finally be the year New York legalizes it. The UFC late last year announced a fight card for April 23 at Madison Square Garden pending the outcome of legislation.
If MMA remains in the final budget proposal that legislators vote on — the deadline is March 31 — and that budget passes, MMA would become legal in New York and would not need to be voted on separately by the Assembly.
“Of course, we continue to be strongly supportive of and grateful to Senator Joe Griffo and the New York State Senate, which has passed a bill to legalize and regulate MMA for the last six consecutive years,” Fertitta said. “We also remain supportive of Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, the more than 70 Assembly sponsors and additional Assembly supporters of his bill.
“We will be working with the Governor and both houses of the Legislature to make 2016 the year that UFC and other MMA promoters have the opportunity to bring the fastest growing sport in the world to arenas from one end of the state to the other.”