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What Will It Take To Legalize MMA in New York State? A Little Old-Fashioned Grease

The NY Post is reporting that Zuffa Entertainment, owners of the UFC, have come across with some serious money to aid Democratic Candidate for Governor in NY State Andrew Cuomo’s election campaign.

According to the Post, Zuffa has delivered nearly $75,000 dollars to the coffers of the Cuomo campaign to move legislation along that would essentially legalize MMA in the state.

Zuffa has been grinding away at the New York State Legislature in an effort to get MMA fights sanctioned there, and the most high-profile obstacle to that goal is Assemblyman  Bob Reilly. At this point, Reilly has managed to stonewall legalization efforts with the help of his cronies, but that might all change with the new guard in New York politics.

Reilly put together a little tome entitled “The Case against Ultimate Fighting in New York State.” The main points of this gem are the following arguments:

1. Ultimate fighting is a form of violence that harms the participants and has a negative effect on children, adults and our society as a whole.

2. Ultimate fighting would have a negative effect on the economics of New York state and local municipalities.

3. The majority of New Yorkers do not want ultimate fighting legalized in New York State.

Other than the fact that at least two of those arguments are clearly spurious, it’s a decent argument.

Whether or not “the majority of New Yorkers” want to keep cage fights out of their state is surely open to debate, but the fact is, Reilly could be right. New York State has a long history of Bluenosed opposition to combat sports dating back to the turn of the century.

Dating back to the Lewis Law in 1900, New York had criminalized “prizefighting” in 1859, and made it a misdemeanor to engage in, arrange or help a fighter train for a “prizefight.” The Horton law expanded the definition of this misdemeanor to include “public or private sparring exhibition[s], with or without gloves, within the state, at which an admission fee is charged or received.” Fighters and promoters got around that piece of legislation by forming clubs and athletic associations. Under the law, those associations where allow to conduct “sparring sessions,” and clubs like the Coney Island Athletic Club and Lennox Athletic Club basically used the loophole to conduct cards.

The Horton Law of 1900 then expanded the law to permit fights to be conducted in New York State and did not specify any limit to the number of rounds, permitted decisions by referees and allowed for the posting of forfeits and placing of side bets.

Opponent of combat sports continued to use inside political pressure to prevent fights from taking place in major venues in the state, so those cards were often conducted in New Jersey or on barges on the Hudson river.

In 1920, Senator James J. Walker, a fan of boxing, pushed through what would become the model for boxing legislation in this country, The Walker Law. The New York Senate passed it 30-19, and fights were once again legal in New York state. That law, among its other sensible virtues, established standard weight divisions for fight promoters to follow.

The question now?

Will a little good, old-fashioned grease for the wheels of the political machine get the job done for MMA in New York State?