The annual campaign to get mixed martial arts, or 'ultimate fighting,' legalized in New York reached a peak this week with a demonstration at the Times Union Center just a couple of blocks from the Capitol. There seems to be a little more hope than in the past, now that one of the sport’s biggest foes, Assemblyman Bob Reilly, D-Colonie, has retired and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has acknowledged to a reporter that MMA in New York is “inevitable.”
We hope Silver finally lets his chamber debate the issue — he’s kept a bill off the floor for several years running — and the Assembly follows the Senate’s lead and legalizes this sport. Not because we’re fans but because the state’s high-mindedness is costing it oodles of money — as much as $100 million annually. Instead, other states have been reaping the bonanza — MMA is legal in all but New York and Connecticut — and due to the widespread availability of MMA on cable TV, New York can’t even keep its children from being exposed to it. So why bother trying?
It would be like New York taking the high road against casino gambling if it were legal in 48 states and the Internet (which, thankfully, it’s not at this point). Except that MMA is not nearly as destructive.
There’s no denying it’s a violent sport, but so are football, hockey and boxing. And while there are health risks to participants, they’re no more serious than in boxing, where the blows tend to be concentrated on the head. In MMA, they’re distributed all around the body, and because fighters end up on the ground rather quickly, grappling like wrestlers, head injuries are less common. But when an MMA fighter does get knocked out, he can’t fight or even spar for three months — a far longer precaution than is taken with other sports concussions.
The state should OK the sport, regulate it and make money off it.