Sunday, December 27, 2015

The Top Five of 2015 Countdown - #5: The Revised MMA Bill

NEW YORK


The timekeeper has given us the ten-second warning, and the clock is running out on 2015. That means it's time to count down the top five most notable things pertaining to New York MMA from the last 12 months. Because although we can't have a UFC here - yet - we sure as hell have a ton of mixed martial arts.

#5: The Revised MMA Bill - This year was not politics as usual when it came to the seemingly never-ending slog to get the law banning pro MMA changed. First, longtime hater Sheldon Silver fell prey to corruption charges, which prompted him to step down as Assembly Speaker. He was replaced by Assemblyman Carl Heastie, a supporter of the sport, and while the sudden shift in power may not have forced a recalculating of the legislative math, it did create an opening.


That opening was exploited by Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle, who hit the pavement and began gathering a consensus on the concerns shared by Assembly holdouts. His legwork paid off in the form of a revised MMA Bill (a.k.a., "the Combative Sports Bill"). Concerns over concussions, funding for a long-term study of brain injury, amateur MMA regulation - it was all in there. And it was enough to get beyond the magic "76 'yes' votes in the Democratic conference" number that has eluded us for so long and kept any version of the MMA Bill from getting onto the Assembly floor for a vote.

Obviously, time ran out on the legislative session before the MMA Bill could be passed, but that was really an issue with timing and Speaker Heastie juggling too many other more important bills simultaneously. We got there though, got to that special sweet spot, and we're still there - a fact that could mean passage of the bill early in the 2016 legislative session.

All because of Majority Leader Morelle and the revised MMA Bill.

*Also worth mentioning is how much constituent input helped. When it was realized that the prior version of the MMA Bill would effectively kill the amateur MMA scene, fighters and promoters alike mobilized and made their voices heard to their local legislators. Those concerns percolated up the chain - hence an MMA Bill that actually helped, not hindered, the sport. The system does work sometimes, and bravo to every New Yorker who trekked to Albany or made a phone call or fired off a polite email.

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