Now led by an ex-Olympian in stiletto heels, a fighter known for twisting arms until her opponents quit, an effort to legalize professional mixed martial arts is attempting another comeback in New York.
The state Senate approved legislation again Wednesday, voting 43-14, to make New York the 46th state to legalize and regulate the sport, though opposition remains among some lawmakers in the Assembly who say they oppose its violence and that influence on children. That chamber has beaten back legalization for seven years, recently keeping it out of this year's budget.
Ronda Rousey, MMA's newest guest lobbyist, urged lawmakers at the Capitol on Wednesday to approve it. The winner of a 2008 Olympics bronze medal in judo, she is the unbeaten Strikeforce women's champion at 135 pounds. She said nobody was offering her a judo salary, and she made $32,000 for her last MMA fight.
"I've never gotten a scratch or a bruise or anything," Rousey said. In winning all five professional fights in the first round with an "arm bar," she used her body as leverage and bent her opponent's elbow in the opposite direction of the joint. Most opponents quickly gave up, though some had their elbows dislocated.
"It's not a serious injury but it's serious at the time. It hurts a lot," Rousey said. She has had both elbows dislocated multiple times, she said, and noted that judo is likewise rough, but spectators can't see that under its loose garments.
During Wednesday's debate, Sen. Kevin Parker, a Brooklyn Democrat, said data show that from 1990 to 2003 there were 79 deaths related to soccer and 300 related to football while there were only two worldwide from mixed martial arts. "There are far less concussions in MMA than there are in boxing because many of the bouts end in submission or 'taps,'" he said.
Sen. Joseph Griffo, an Oneida County Republican who sponsored the bill, said giving the state Athletic Commission authority to regulate MMA like professional boxing would alleviate many safety concerns and help prevent underground fighting. He believes there's support and wants the Assembly to permit a floor vote to see, he said.
"The day of the gladiator, I think it ended with the demise of the Roman Empire," said Sen. Stephen Saland, a Poughkeepsie Republican who voted against the bill. He agreed with concerns about other violent sports, including concussions from football that could eventually turn out to be hundreds of thousands of injuries as awareness continues to grow.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said he doesn't think there's "a groundswell of support" for mixed martial arts though strict regulation might be an option, acknowledging it is already on television in every child's home. "I have mixed feelings about it," he said.
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