State Assembly Kills Legalizing MMA In NY for the 4th Straight Year

After a contentious closed-door meeting with his conference, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said the overall support is not there to pass the bill.

“The conference has asked not to put it on the agenda,” Silver said.

Insiders said Silver began his meeting asking if any of the 35 Dems who signed a letter first reported by the Daily News opposing legalizing the sport changed their mind. When no one raised their hand, Silver asked if any members who did not sign the letter oppose legalizing the sport. Several hands went up, according to sources.

“It was dead before (debate) started,” groused one MMA supporter in the room.

While the bill would likely have enough votes to pass if it made it to the floor, it is rare for the Assembly to move a bill that would need help from the GOP minority.

“The Democratic conference determines the agenda,” Silver said, acknowledging more than 40 Dems opposed MMA.

Bill sponsor Francisco Moya (D-Queens) said he is “very disappointed.”

“On the merits, we should have been able to bring this bill to the floor for a vote,” Moya said.

Critics decry the sport as anti-woman and anti-gay.

But Assemblyman Matthew Titone, a Staten Island Dem who is openly gay, said he disagrees.

“A sport can’t be misogynistic or homophobic,” Titone said. “But if some of those in the sport are, I say put them in the cage and let them beat the crap out of each other.”

For Silver, the women’s issue is a sensitive one given the firestorm he has faced over his admitted mishandling of the Vito Lopez sexual harassment case.

New York and Connecticut remain the only states where MMA remains illegal. A bill passed recently in Connecticut to legalize the sport is awaiting the governor’s signature.

In New York, the state Senate has passed a legalization bill four straight years only to see it die in the Assembly.

Gov. Cuomo has warmed up to the effort, though he has yet to take a formal position.

Silver earlier this year acknowledged support within his conference is building and said he expects the bill will eventually pass. MMA was banned in 1997 under then Gov. George Pataki, who called the no-holds barred contest “barbaric.”

But the sport has since become regulated and is seen on different television networks. Pataki also now supports its legalization.

Lorenzo Fertitta, head of the Ultimate Fighting Championship league, expressed disappointment but vowed to continue the fight to legalize the sport in New York.

He called charges that mixed martial arts is anti-woman and leads to domestic violence “this year’s new, absurd, offensive, and completely erroneous” excuse to kill the bill.

He said the real reason for the decision has more to do with a Las Vegas culinary union’s unrelated fight against the owners of the UFC over non-unionized casinos.

“This canard hurts women and hurts New York,” Fertitta said. “Continuing to ban MMA in New York does not hurt the UFC. It only highlights the absurdity of the dishonest debate being waged by a small number of people in New York. And New Yorkers pay the price.”

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