Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Senate Bill That Could Kill Amateur MMA in New York


Last month the State Senate passed their version of the bill that would lift the ban on professional MMA in New York, and as usual, the Assembly's concurrent version is languishing in limbo. I've already taken a closer look at the Senate's bill - S6502, sponsored by Senator Joseph Griffo - and given the rumbles in Albany (or lack thereof), there isn't a lot of confidence that S6502 and its sister in the Assembly are going to make it to the governor's desk for a signature this year. But there is something else, another Senate bill authored by Senator Griffo, that is worth keeping an eye on.

The bill is designated S4877, and on Friday it was moved to the Committee on Finance for discussion. And while the piece of legislation does nothing in regards to the ban on pro MMA, it pretty much kills amateur MMA in the state.

Well, there's a chance it won't kill it as much as it will drastically alter it.

Currently, as per statute, amateur MMA is completely unregulated by the state, so promoters use either third-party sanctioning organizations or nothing at all when they put on shows. But S4877 takes a needle and thread to the loophole that prevents the state from playing a role, and empowers the athletic commission to oversee amateur combative sports. It also limits the third-party sanctioning organizations to overseeing events of only "a single discipline" - i.e., kickboxing, karate, judo, etc.

If the bill passes the Senate, passes the Assembly and is signed off by Governor Cuomo, there are a number of ways things could play out:

  • Citing budget constraints, the New York State Athletic Commission could refuse to grant licenses for promoters to hold amateur MMA events;
  • The NYSAC could go ahead and sanction events, which could mean they'd staff shows with doctors, inspectors, judges, referee and all that jazz. Or they could sanction events and staff them with just one commission rep, and entrust the promoters to do the rest;
  • Since the bill allows for the athletic commission to approve new third-party sanctioning organizations, they could take the stance that MMA has evolved into its own "single-disciple art", and permit an organization that specializes in sanctioning MMA to take the reins; or,
  • A sanctioning body challenges the bill in court, arguing that MMA is its own single-discipline art and the law shouldn't stop organizations like the World Kickboxing Association or Karate International from being able to sanction shows.
I've reached out to Senator Griffo for some additional color on this bill. But regardless of whether or not he responds, the progress of bill S4877 is something we should all monitor. It could really change things.

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