Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Deconstructing Governor Paterson's Proposed NY MMA Bill

Yeah, so, Governor David Paterson wants MMA in New York State and he wants it now, and he even had his people draw up a bill that would make it legal and kosher and approved by nine out of ten dentists who chew Trident gum. That’s right, it’s a brand-spanking new bill to legalize MMA and quite unlike the one that was almost passed last year, this one full of all sorts of goodies like tax rates and payouts based on attendance and what I think is Braille (it’s hard to tell over the Internet). Anyway, MMA Journalist has examined the text, and here are some of the more salient points:

    • “Combative sports” are still banned and “martial arts” are not, with professional mixed martial arts falling under the “martial arts” exception. “Professional mixed martial arts” is defined as any MMA bout where the participants are paid (or receive some form of compensation). Translation: hello unpaid amateur MMA loophole! Here, sit down and have a drink. You know, we thought you were going to leave us, but instead it looks like you’re here to stay.
    • A “professional mixed martial arts participant” is defined as any paid fighter, or coach, or trainer, or someone who “pursues or assists in the practice of mixed martial arts” for dough. Translation: the State can regulate everybody who makes a buck off the sport – and even regulate gyms where sparring occurs.
    • “No person or entity shall have, either directly or indirectly, any financial interest in a professional mixed martial arts participant competing on premises owned or leased by the person or entity, or in which such person or entity is otherwise interested.” Translation: I guess venue owners can’t bet on or sponsor fighters?
    • No mismatches allowed. However, “nothing in this subdivision shall authorize the commission to intervene… solely on the basis of the difference between respective participant’s martial arts disciplines.” Translation: Muay Thai vs. Tai Chi is a go!
    • “No participant shall be allowed to participate in more than three matches or exhibitions or compete for more than sixty minutes within seventy-two consecutive hours.” Translation: eight-man tournaments are good; sixteen-man tournaments are bad. Very bad.
    • All promoters must have insurance coverage for the fighters. If a fighter is injured, the minimum limit of coverage is fifty-thousand bucks. If a fighter dies, the minimum limit is a hundred-thousand bucks. Translation: getting injured and dying might be worthwhile. For your family, at least.

MMA in New York is Ridiculously Close - But Will New York Be Ready?

The score thus far: a number of legislators are for it, as is former Governor George Pataki, the man who helped ban it back in 1997. Now current Governor David Paterson is pushing for the legalization of pro MMA in New York with his new budget proposal - all of which means we're now ridiculously close to having more than just underground shows in the Empire State. But a new question arises amidst all this sudden optimism: when the sport is legalized, will New York State be ready? According to Governor Paterson's budget proposal, the state anticipates a recurring net revenue of $1.37 million, and to snag that revenue, "Additional staffing is recommended for the Athletic Commission to regulate the conduct of professional mixed martial arts competitions in the State." Additional staffing would include everything from capable referees and judges, to inspectors (usually tasked with making sure nothing shady goes on backstage and ringside), to physicians, to folks on the administrative level (someone's got to push the paper). That's a lot of hiring (which requires funding) - and a lot of training (which requires funding) - and perhaps the biggest reason UFC brass et al. predict no MMA shows in New York until the fourth quarter of 2010. If Governor Paterson gets his way, we could see a signed bill legalizing pro MMA by April. However, don't drink all your champagne then; a state-run show would likely take a while after that.