A bill that would legalize mixed-martial arts events in the state advanced one step closer to the Assembly floor, overwhelmingly clearing the house’s Codes Committee on Monday.
It now heads to the Ways and Means Committee, where it faces a tough opponent: Assemblyman Denny Farrell, D-Manhattan.
The Ways and Means chairman said that he’s “looking at” the bill, but said he’s far from a mixed-martial arts fan.
“I don’t think very much of the sport,” Farrell said. “Next we’ll give them clubs with spikes on the end; that will be good.”
Executives from Ultimate Fighting Championship, the major professional mixed-martial arts promoter, said they’ll be in Albany all week in an effort to get the bill to the Assembly floor for a vote. They were joined today by Rashad Evans, a Niagara Falls native who is one of the top light heavyweights in the UFC.
“Our whole goal here is to meet with different Assembly people and have a chance for the sport to go before the Assembly floor and be voted on, up or down,” said Marc Ratner, the UFC’s VP of government and regulatory affairs. “That’s all we want; we just want a vote. So far we haven’t even got to the floor.”
Last month, UFC light heavyweight champion Jon “Bones” Jones — a Rochester native who grew up in Endicott, Broome County and now lives in Ithaca — was in Albany to meet with lawmakers. On Monday, advocates unveiled a new radio ad featuring Jones making his case for legalizing the sport while emphasizing his upstate roots.
UFC officials said they hoped to schedule a meeting with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who said last week the bill doesn’t have “widespread support” in his conference. As of Monday afternoon, nothing had been officially scheduled.
Assemblyman Dean Murray, R-Suffolk County, sent a letter in support of mixed-martial arts to Silver late last week, which was signed by 60 of his Assembly colleagues. Murray said he hopes to show the speaker that there is enough support to allow it to hit the floor.
Here’s video of Evans making his case near the Assembly chamber: