Zebrowski: “Lift Ban on Mixed Martial Arts”

January 14, 2010

Mixed Martial Arts is becoming one of America’s fastest growing sports. Emergence of this sport has produced strong interest, huge fan base and money, but also a certain amount of controversy. Mixed Martial Arts and New York currently have a love-hate relationship. New York MMA fans love the sport but cannot attend an event in the State due to an active ban on sanctioned mixed martial art fights since 1997.

As New York faces a growing deficit, we struggle with the stark reality of diminishing revenues and rising costs. As we scramble to find alternative revenue sources, we should focus our attention on bringing one of the most profitable and popular sports to our Great State. An economic study by the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) has found that an event held in New York City could provide up to $11.5 million in new economic activity and an event held in upstate New York could generate up to $5 million. The popularity of the sport is growing and in 2006 UFC posted record pay-per-view earnings of over $222 million which is greater than boxing and professional wrestling.

I join Governor Paterson’s call to legalize and regulate mixed martial arts. In the past year, both Massachusetts and South Carolina have legalized the sport. New York is one of only eight states that have yet to lift the ban of MMA and the time to act is now. This recession has hit New York hard and we must look towards new opportunities and enterprises.

Opponents of this sport cite its “barbaric” nature. However, this sport has evolved over the years since the 1997 ban with increased oversight and protection for the health and safety of fighters. A John Hopkins University study that examined the link of MMA to injury concluded “The overall injury rate in MMA competitions is now similar to other combat sports, including boxing.” I feel confident in the existing safeguards in this sport and the future cooperation between the State and sporting enterprises on this issue.

As we enter this difficult fiscal year in New York State I feel it is necessary to explore all options to jumpstart our economy. This is just one example of an out of date regulation that is impeding New York’s revenue growth and subsequent economic recovery.