The path to the legalization of Mixed Martial Arts in New York State may have gotten a little easier with the departure of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver who has been a strong opponent to legalizing the sport.
Assemblyman John Ceretto (R. C. I. – Lewiston) believes Silver's arrest on federal corruption charges and his departure as speaker could be the ticket allowing the state legislature to vote on legalizing MMA which has broad bipartisan support in the Capitol.
Ceretto said legalization would bring over $5.2 million in economic activity to Western New York plus additional revenue to the state.
"A lot of progress has been made in Niagara Falls lately, but we are really missing a great opportunity by not allowing MMA events in the state," said Ceretto in a statement. "New York is the only state where professional MMA events are not allowed, which only highlights how unreasonable the de facto ban on the sport is. If we had MMA events in Niagara Falls, it would be another way to draw tourists to the city to enjoy all the amenities we have to offer. Hopefully, with a new speaker, we can finally get this passed."
As the ranking member of the Assembly's Tourism, Arts, Parks, and Sports Development Committee, Ceretto has been a strong supporter of MMA in Albany but Silver has been a roadblock to progress on legalizing MMA.
Martial arts champion A. J. Verel of South Buffalo believes—like Ceretto-- that with Silver out of the way there is a good chance New York can finally pass legislation and allow the state to finally be competitive in the martial arts arena.
"We have a great opportunity now to get this done," said Verel, a former light heavyweight and middleweight sport karate and kickboxing champion who holds black belts in five different martial arts."
"If this can get done, the state athletic commission can promulgate rules to help make it safe," said Verel. "It will bring in a whole new fan base, will be beneficial economically, and would be great for state competition." Verel is a 2003 inductee into the martial arts hall of fame and has also appeared as an actor and stuntman in numerous films.
Ceretto said he plans to use his position on the Tourism Committee to push legalizing MMA during upcoming budget hearings.
New York is the only state that doesn't allow professional MMA contests even though it has passed four times in the state senate only to expire in the Silver-controlled assembly. Assembly Minority Leader Joe Morelle has sponsored legislation to end the ban but Silver never allowed the measures to come to the floor for a vote.
Advocates say state regulation would insure that safety precautions would be followed. Some proponents also believe the state would reap an additional $135 million in additional revenue from MMA events at major venues including Niagara Falls. New York has banned MMA events since 1997.