Over the next week or so I am going to be addressing the current ban in New York over mixed martial arts in an effort to get everyone interested up to speed. This is a very current issue as there are proposals to lift the ban (legislative initiatives and Governor Paterson's 2010-2011 budget proposes lifting the ban and estimates revenue of $2.1 M if MMA is legalized). I think starting with the background here makes sense so that everyone understands exactly what needs to be changed for MMA to come to New York.
As you are probably aware if you are reading this blog or know me, this issue is important to me and probably most of my readers because I live and work in New York and am excited by the prospect of being able to watch the first UFC (WEC, Strikeforce, etc.) event held live at MSG. In addition, given the budget issues facing New York, MMA would be a good source of revenue for the state and the city. This is also important overall for MMA in general as NY is a big market and NYC is a great fight town.
I will start this first post (in a series) where I think it makes sense, i.e. at the beginning with the actual ban. In 1997, chapter 912 of the laws of 1920, which relates to allowing and regulating boxing, sparring and wrestling matches, was amended with the addition of a new Section 5-a to specifically prohibit "combative sports."
Combative sports are defined (at 5-a(1)) as "any professional match or exhibition other than boxing, sparring, wrestling or martial arts wherein the contestants deliver, or are not forbidden by the applicable rules thereof from delivering kicks, punches or blows of any kind to the body of an opponent or opponents." "Martial Arts" specifically include "any professional match or exhibition sanctioned by any of the following organizations: U.S. Judo Association, U.S. Judo, Inc., U.S. Judo Federation, U.S. Tae Kwon Do Union, North American Sport Karate Association, U.S.A. Karate Foundation, U.S. Karate, Inc., World Karate Association, Professional Karate Association, Karate International, International Kenpo Association, or World Wide Kenpo Association."
Thus, by its terms (and because it is not boxing, sparring, wrestling, or "martial arts") MMA is a combative sport. Section 5-a(2) specifically states that "[[n]o combative sport shall be conducted, held or given within the state of New York, and no licenses may be approved by the commission for such matches or exhibitions." There you have it -- the source of the ban.
In my next post on this topic I will address the process involved in getting the ban lifted in the New York State Assembly, efforts by members of the New York State Assembly to lift the ban and the, so far, successful efforts of Assemblyman Bob Reilly to block these efforts.