Thursday, April 24, 2014

One on One with Senator Liz Krueger, New York MMA's Most Vocal Enemy


Senator Liz Krueger isn't a fan of mixed martial arts. And though her senatorial half of the legislature has been voting to pass the bill that would legalize pro MMA in the state year after year, she's remained a stalwart foe to cause.

"I can't support something where the competitors try to kill each other," she says, sitting at her desk in her Upper East Side office. On her plate are such issues as the legalization of marijuana and a tangle of problems with the lodging website Airbnb, but she feels strongly enough about MMA to talk for ten minutes about that - and it's ten minutes of discourse quite unlike the irrational ramblings of her anti-MMA predecessor, Assemblyman Bob Reilly.

On the topic of sport's safety record compared to other athletic endeavors, Senator Krueger cites the recent University of Toronto study, pointing out that the problem doesn't just encompass what manifests immediately after the fight, but also what could become of fighters years later. "I don't know anyone who would want to do this if they knew they'd eventually get brain damage," she says.

She may want to keep professional MMA out of New York State, but Senator Krueger is also cognizant of the plethora of amateur events already flooding the market. She sees a danger there too, and would like to see those forbidden.

When asked of how she can reconcile the fact that the sport is legal in every other state, and that New York is the last holdout, Senator Krueger called upon the old adage of the wisdom of following your friends if they all jumped off a bridge. She has no problem with New York not jumping off that bridge as well.

"Every year people say this will be the year the sport is legalized," she says when asked about MMA's chances in the 2014 legislative session. "Every year. And here we are and it's still banned."

The law that put the kibosh on pro MMA was enacted in 1997, and back then the sport was very different than what it is today, evolution having brought with it all manner of safety precautions and regulations. What would it take for Senator Krueger's opinion on MMA to change? "It would take a lot more change," she says, suggesting that maybe helmets could be an answer.

Or maybe not. Senator Krueger has no issue with the individual martial arts themselves. There's just an inherent violence to MMA that - for her - is too hard to swallow.

And that's fine. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and certainly, fights within a cage aren't for everyone. Ultimately, what matters is the rational discussion that gets us from the point "A" to point "B" (i.e., no pro MMA to sanctioned pro MMA) in legitimate fashion.

For that at least, we owe Senator Krueger thanks.

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