New York took a big step toward the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts on Wednesday. The state Assembly's Committee on Tourism, Arts and Sports Development voted to send a bill giving the New York State Athletic Commission the right to regulate the sport to the full Assembly.
The same committee voted against the bill last year, and its move to the full legislative body is seen as a harbinger of eventual success. The loudest dissenting voice in the Assembly, Bob Reilly of suburban Albany, told the Associated Press that he is "not optimistic" about rallying enough support to defeat the bill. A similar Senate committee will vote on the bill next week.
It would seem that the state's economy is the tipping point in this battle. Reilly, who recently railed against the culture of violence created by the sport, and other detractors have long clung to the belief that MMA's brutality made it something unacceptable in New York. Reams of statistical evidence that showed the sport wasn't any more damaging than other athletic pursuits weren't enough to sway votes, but the need for increased revenue appears to have done the trick.
When the state is talking about drastic tax hikes, service cuts and assorted other unpleasantness, it is very hard to understand how they'd willingly forego a packed Madison Square Garden or Nassau Coliseum over fairly baseless ethical concerns. The UFC, MMA's biggest organization, has to be salivating at the prospect of promoting a big card at the Garden, an arena that would burnish their credentials while providing a nice boost to the state's coffers.
Money shouldn't trump morality, but that really isn't the case here. MMA has proven itself to be a well-regulated, professional sport in the last few years. If it isn't your cup of tea, don't watch or go to the matches, but that's not enough of a reason to stand in the way of something that New York should have been benefitting from for quite some time.