Sunday, February 21, 2010

Should Ultimate Fighting Be Legal?

New York state currently does not allow ultimate fighting matches to be held in the state. Advocates are fighting for that to change:

Ultimate fighting advocates push for legalization in NYS

Posted at: 02/18/2010 6:56 PM
By: Matt McFarland

ALBANY - Ultimate fighting is a billion dollar industry, an industry that is currently banned in New York.

But while fans of the sport feel New York is getting closer to legalizing it, their biggest opponent is not yet ready to throw in the towel. From the cage to the Capitol, the knock down, drag out fight to legalize this popular yet polarizing sport continues.

Saying there must be pioneers in sports, Nick Sanzo is speaking from experience. Thirteen years ago, ultimate fighting was no holds barred, bare knuckle brawling. U.S. Senator John McCain even called it "human cock fighting." In 1997, then-governor George Pataki and the legislature banned the sport from New York State. But since then, mixed martial arts, and specifically the Ultimate Fighting Championship, has morphed into a billion dollar industry.

Sanzo says the sport has changed over the years. "We have rounds, we wear gloves. There are a lot of rules: where you can strike, how you can strike," he says. "It hasn't affected the sport. It's made it bigger and more popular."

Ultimate fighting may be popular, yet it is still not legal in the Empire State.

Sanzo, who trains aspiring fighters and runs New York Mixed Martial Arts, argues that, "We're a New York based company that takes our shows to Vermont, but we'd love to have them in New York State. We'd love to see that revenue come to New York state."

And so would Governor David Paterson, even putting it in his budget. Paterson says legalizing MMA could bring the state up to $2 million a year in taxes. Back in 2008 while lobbying the state, UFC released a study. Its findings claim that an upstate show would generate more than $5 million for the local economy.

Without throwing a punch or a kick, Colonie Assemblyman Bob Reilly is without a doubt MMA's toughest opponent. Spearheading the drive to keep the sport outlawed, Reilly claims a recent Marist poll supports his cause. Nearly seven out of ten New York State voters say no to MMA. Reilly cites wide public support against allowing MMA in the state saying, "People literally come up to me every day, saying keep up the fight against it, we don't want it." Reilly adds, "At some time we have to say no to the lobbyists, no to the money and no to the violence."

Right now the sport is legal in forty-two states including New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and most recently getting the green light in Massachusetts. Also there have been UFC cards in Connecticut at the Mohegan Sun Casino, as well as up in Montreal. Essentially making New York an island. MMA supporters argue there is money to be made and that New York is losing out.

Sanzo thinks, however, the ban is likely to change. "I think we're going to see them at Madison Square Garden. We're going to see them right here in Albany," he predicted. "I think its going to happen. It's just a matter of time."

Reilly counters by saying a "violent" sport is no way to build an economy. "That's not something I want to do," Reilly says. "I hope it's not what the governor wants to do. I hope that's not what the legislature wants to do."

Should ultimate fighting be against the law? Does the money involved make this a political necessity for New York? Is ultimate fighting really a "human cockfight"? Is violent sport immoral? Is legal paternalism warranted in this case?


Mike Austin said...

I'm not sure whether or not I think the sport should be legal, but I am definitely not a fan. I've been to couple of live events, and found them very boring and a bit disturbing. And I am a fan of boxing, as I enjoy watching Friday Night Fights on ESPN when I get the chance to do so. Perhaps my appreciation for boxing and disdain for MMA are inconsistent, but that's where I stand.

David said...

I posed this question last night to my Philosophy of Sport class. The students (all New York voters) were unanimous in the affirmative that the sport should be allowed, even arguing it should be an Olympic sport. I countered with Xenophanes on pankration to no avail.