Sports News

New York lawmakers expected to clear way for mixed martial arts fights

ALBANY, N.Y. (Reuters) - New York is poised to join the rest of the country in legalizing mixed martial arts (MMA) fights, as the state Assembly prepares to pass a bill to end a ban on the full-contact sport, a measure the Senate has approved on multiple occasions over the years.

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The lower house of the New York State Assembly is expected to vote on Tuesday afternoon on the legislation, long stymied by the refusal of Assembly leaders to allow the measure to come to the floor despite broad support from lawmakers.

Its passage will clear the way for Governor Andrew Cuomo to enact the bill into law. Cuomo, a Democrat who needs revenue generated by the sport for his proposed budget, has already said he would sign the measure.

New York is the only state prohibiting MMA, a controversial sport that features kicking, punching, wrestling and other maneuvers that can leave the combatants with bloodied and sometimes unconscious.

The move to bring the bill up for a vote in the Assembly comes a year after Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver resigned in a corruption scandal. He was replaced by a former co-sponsor of the bill, Assemblyman Carl E. Heastie, a Bronx Democrat.

Michael Whyland, a spokesman for Heastie, said in an email that the floor vote is expected to take place on Tuesday.

MMA fights are expected to generate $135 million a year for the state’s coffers, according to a 2013 study by the sport’s promoters, Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Arenas throughout New York would benefit and Madison Square Garden in New York City is particularly well-suited to stage the competitions, the bill’s sponsors say.

Cuomo has already penciled in $3 million in revenue from ticket sales and cable fees in his proposed budget for the next fiscal year.

The New York State Athletic Commission would have to set regulations after the governor signs the bill. Fans would have to wait until at least the fourth quarter of 2016 before seeing any bouts in the state, according to supporters.

The legislation would effectively spell an end to pending lawsuits against the state for banning mixed martial arts, its backers say.

UFC is owned by brothers Lorenzo and Frank Fertita of Station Casinos, a Las Vegas-based hotel-casino chain, through parent company Zuffa LLC.

Editing By Frank McGurty and Alistair Bell