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State needs to get in the ring

Saturday, April 27, 2013 - Updated: 3:49 PM

As New York continues to fight its way through economic turmoil, one proposal could help the state battle back.

Lawmakers in Albany are considering a plan to legalize mixed martial arts fighting. New York is one of only two states -- Connecticut being the other -- that bans the popular sport.

The move has already gained approval in the state Senate, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo voiced tentative support for legalizing MMA. It's unclear if there's enough support in the Assembly to pass it, although a similar bill has 64 sponsors. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has said -- according to the New York Daily News -- the legalization of MMA is inevitable.

It seems like a no-brainer to us.

Our support for making the sport legal is mostly for economic reasons. Having mixed martial arts events, particularly those put on by the sport's most dominant promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship, could result in a huge influx of cash to the Empire State.

It's not a move that would only benefit New York City, which is a natural venue for these types of events. UFC has said if mixed martial arts fighting was approved, it would host four events per year here, three of them upstate.

One of the most successful mixed martial arts events was UFC 141, a pay-per-view which took place in Las Vegas in January 2012. The event brought in $3.1 million in ticket sales.

If the event took place in New York, and UFC was subject to the same taxing guidelines that apply to boxing, the state would have taken in $50,000 from the ticket sales and another $50,000 from the broadcast revenue.

That doesn't include the income tax fighters have to pay for any prizes won in New York state. Nor does it count the state taxes that have to be paid by doctors, ring staff and referees whenever a fight night takes place.

Add to that the amount of revenue generated by spectators, who come from all over the world to watch these fights. They all need to eat, get gas, find someplace to stay, and buy other goods, and the state would get a piece of each of those purchases.

Legalizing it would also provide a boost to business. Venues that host such events will see more gate fees, rental checks and concession money.

We understand there are concerns about health and safety with such a violent sport, but in reality, it's no more violent than boxing or professional football. MMA fighters are not only trained to throw a punch or kick but to take one as well. Referees are trained to not only call matches fairly, but to also look out for the fighters.

The positives of legalizing such a sport outweigh the negatives. New York should get on board with the other 48 states that have already legalized MMA and bring the fights to the Empire State.


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