Since it’s that time of the year when the struggle to get the sport sanctioned in New York becomes a recurring news item, it makes sense to have a weekly update post. So here it is! This week, the New York State Assembly introduces their version of the bill that will repeal the pro MMA ban, and a fighter dies in an unregulated but legal amateur MMA event in Michigan, highlighting the perils of the unsanctioned MMA scene in New York.
• Bill A06506 was introduced to the Assembly this week, and it featured a whopping 64 sponsors. What does that mean? If it were to get out of the various committees and go to the floor for a vote, only 12 more Assemblymen would have to give it the thumbs up for the bill to pass. Of course, that’s a big “if” on the floor vote – Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who decides what bills get voted on and what bills don’t, has been letting the MMA bill die in committee for the past few years. So I guess this news item deserves half a “hooray”. Regardless, here’s the UFC giving it three-quarters of a “hooray”.
• Cue up that full “hooray”, because the latest Siena Poll shows a rise in support of the sanctioning MMA in New York. The number is 43 percent, which is 11 more percent than last year. Thirty-three percent are against, however, which is a seven percent increase. The upside in these increases is that more people are aware of the sport and the surrounding issues, and therefore have an opinion, which I believe is a lot better than most of the general public simply shrugging their shoulders and saying “Huh?”
• The Assembly bill is similar to the versions introduced in previous years, i.e., there would be an 8.5% tax on ticket sales and 3% tax on broadcasting revenue. The new law would also sew up the amateur loophole (effectively killing underground shows), and give the athletic commission leeway in regulating third-party sanctioning organizations.
• Currently, New York is a free-for-all when it comes to amateur MMA, meaning that there is no uniform set of rules or guidelines promoters and third-party sanctioning organizations must follow. As a result, fighter screening, matchmaking and medical care can (and does) vary greatly. This is how it is in New York, and it’s also how it is in Michigan. And now an amateur fighter there named Felix Nchikwo has died. Understandably, the Michigan legislature is moving to rectify the mess – too little, too late for Nchikwo, but good for the budding fighters keen on testing the MMA waters. Because yes, it was a mess. How soon until someone dies in New York’s amateur “wild west”? Hopefully never, but you never know.
• Steve Koepfer runs a sambo school in Manhattan, and has been at the forefront of the grassroots movement pushing to get MMA sanctioned in New York. I visited “Sambo Steve” at his school this week to get his thoughts on the current events.