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MMA proves itself worthy of legalization

MMA proves itself worthy of legalization

Heavily regulated environment takes sport out of the bar room

Anyone who had any misconceptions about the way mixed martial arts (MMA) would be conducted in New York needed look no further than the Schenectady Armory last Saturday night.

The event, which featured 11 amateur bouts, was held for two audiences -- the spectators in attendance and the state legislators who once again will consider legalizing professional MMA in New York state.

New York is the only state in the country that doesn't sanction professional bouts, which to a casual observer look like nothing more than a bar brawl.

But a closer examination of the way the event was conducted in Schenectady — and the way it would be conducted should professional MMA be sanctioned in New York — paints a different picture.

All you had to do was listen to the referee list off the rules before each match to get an idea what this sport is not about.

“No knees to the head. No hair-grabbing. No sticking your fingers or toes into any orifice of the body. No biting. No groin shots. No head-butting. No stomping while your opponent is on the ground."

What does that leave? A little boxing, a little wrestling and some martial arts -- all of which are completely legal in New York.

These fighters receive training. They receive medical attention. They have doctors and ambulances nearby. They can’t even get in the ring until they’re cleared for diseases that can be spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, like HIV and hepatitis. Bouts are stopped when they get out of hand. No one gets his brains bashed in before the ref steps in.

Do MMA fighters get hurt? Sure they do. Do people get hurt in boxing and football and hockey? Sure they do. Yet no one in New York is trying to shut down the NFL.

As our executive sports editor, Mark McGuire, pointed out in a column on Sept. 25, the alternative to these types of highly regulated professional events are less regulated, more dangerous incarnations of it.

"You're professional fighters here. Be professional," the ref warned fighters.

That's all state lawmakers would be sanctioning if they legalized the sport.

What more evidence do they need?

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