A J. Verel of South Buffalo is a legendary martial arts performer (International Hall of Fame) and a veteran Hollywood stuntman who is throwing his full support behind a renewed effort this year to legalize mixed martial arts in New York State.
Verel has teamed up with Lewiston Assemblyman John Ceretto in a strong push for legalization of mixed martial arts now that former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has been a roadblock to legalization efforts, is relegated to the back row after he was pushed out as speaker following his arrest on federal corruption charges.
Also this week Verel is sending a letter to lawmakers in Albany pushing for the establishment of a commission to promulgate rules necessary to ensure the safety of amateurs who participate in the nearly 6,000 martial arts/MMA/Kickboxing schools in NYS and the thousands of tournaments that take place here each year.
Verel wrote that "as legislators you have a responsibility to protect the public interest, which includes the children and amateur participants of these sports in this state. Failure to do so will, without doubt, as history has taught us, open the proverbial 'flood gate' which will lead to higher rates of orthopedic and head injuries if clearly defined amateur rules are not implemented and enforced.
"Furthermore, no vetting process for school owners, coaches, instructors and volunteers who participate at these events exist which raises the increased chances of exposing our children to sexual offenders in what Laura Ahearn, executive director of Parents for Megan's Law describes as a 'grooming ground' for these predators."
Verel said measures must be taken as we have already seen many incidents in New York State where this has been a recurring problem including the cases of Tom Merritt of Oswego, Antonio Staley, Jr, of Buffalo, and William Pinchskie of Niagara Falls.
Verel seeks legislation requiring the establishment of a state amateur martial arts advisory commission to promulgate rules and regulations for amateur martial arts training and competitions and to amend the correction law to prohibit the employment of sex offenders in certain positions.
Verel told Lawmakers that safeguards will generate revenue "that far exceeds that projected for professional MMA" in the state. He noted that all other professional sports that have an amateur component "have these safeguards and public clearing houses in place and you should not ignore it."
In 1992, Verel won the World Kickboxing Association's Middleweight title and holds black belts in five different martial arts.
He is urging state lawmakers to support establishment of an amateur advisory commission with the same amount of enthusiasm they have shown for the professional sport.
Verel says both the Buffalo Common Council and the Erie County Legislature have passed resolutions in support of his objective.
The new Assembly speaker, Carl Heastie, in the past has been a cosponsor of legislation to support the legalization of ultimate fighting. While Heastie has been noncommittal so far, UFC officials are hoping new legislation will get a fair hearing now that Silver is out of the way, according to the New York Daily News.
Assemblyman Ceretto is a strong supporter of legalization, saying it could bring over $5.2 million in economic activity to Western New York. He plans to meet with Verel later this week to discuss their efforts at getting legislation approved in Albany.