Thanks in most part to the UFC and its change in leadership back in 2001, Mixed Martial Arts is arguably the fastest growing sport, not only in the United States, but around the world. Last Fall, UFC made perhaps the biggest leap for the sport: getting it on mainstream network television. Now, Mixed Martial Arts is one step closer to another major plateau.
Despite all the amazing venues and cities Mixed Martial Arts has held tournaments and pay-per-view fights in these years of increasing popularity, it has never been to the Big Apple. That’s because, since 1997, mixed martial arts has been banned in New York state.
But that all may be about to change. Yesterday, the state senate in Albany voted 43-14 to approve legislation that would make New York the 46th state to “legalize” professional mixed martial arts fighting. Connecticut and Vermont are also considering similar legislation.
MMA, represented by Olympic medalist and Strikeforce champion Ronda Rousey have tried and failed to legalize the sport in New York for the last seven years. But as its popularity increases, Rousey hopes this year is the year they finally get over the hump.
“The major obstacle in all this is information,” said Rousey, “People just don’t understand MMA is a very safe sport. It’s safer than cheerleading or gymnastics, if you look at the statistics of it.”
Helping her cause, says Joe Morelle, the bill’s sponsor inside the assembly, is the fact that state legislators are becoming younger and younger even though he himself is 54.
“I think the amount of support in our conference has been growing. One of the things you observe is that we have a lot of new members, a lot of younger members,” said Morelle, “There just seems to be a lot of turnover in the last couple of years. And I think the younger members who have had UFC on television for the greater part of their life are probably more comfortable with it.”
There’s no doubt that legalizing a sport so rapidly growing in popularity would almost surely bring a stimulus to the state’s economy, but critics still say the sport is too violent.
The key point here is that mixed martial arts is a completely different entity than the one that got banned from the state in 1997. Back then, MMA was much more “no holds barred” and “anything goes”. But the UFC’s change in leadership in 2001 introduced new rules to the sport that made it remarkably safer. Today, many UFC athletes argue that MMA is safer than boxing because it greatly reduces the number of targeted blows to the head.
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