Silver Says NY is Evolving on Mixed Martial Arts

1:27 AM, Mar 7, 2013   |    comments
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Mixed Martial Arts

By Jon Campbell
Albany Bureau

ALBANY Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver on Wednesday said he believes New York will someday lift its ban on professional mixed martial arts but didn't say whether he believes it will come this year.

Speaking to reporters following a news conference, Silver said he believes mixed martial arts' approval may be a question of when, not if.

"I think at some point there will probably be an approval in this state," Silver said. "I can't tell you when."

Silver's comments echo past remarks from Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, D-Irondequoit, the chamber's second-ranking lawmaker. Morelle has said he will introduce a bill to overturn the ban.

Officials from the Ultimate Fighting Championship, mixed martial arts' largest promoter, have lobbied state lawmakers for several years to allow their sport. While the Senate several times has passed legislation to permit and regulate it -- and is expected to again on Wednesday -- the Assembly hasn't allowed it to come to the floor for a vote.

Silver on Wednesday said Assembly Democrats, who hold a 2-to-1 majority in the chamber, will consider it in the same manner the conference has in previous years.

"We will take it up in conference, and we will do what we think our conference thinks is acceptable," the speaker said.

Silver again outlined his personal position on mixed martial arts: He doesn't like it, but there's no keeping it off television. He also pointed to the potential of added revenue for New York.

"On the one hand, I think it's something that I personally do not approve of," Silver said. "On the other hand, you can turn on the television at any time and it's there and available for my children and grandchildren to watch. We can't wall off our children from seeing this, because it's readily available to them."

Meanwhile, UFC officials and fighters -- including women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta -- were scheduled to meet with lawmakers at the Capitol on Wednesday to make their case in person.

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