Tonawanda News

March 14, 2013

Silver holding up MMA legalization

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — New Yorkers are due an answer from the state Assembly as to why leaders refuse to take up the legalization of mixed martial arts, a sport that’s growing in popularity and could add to state coffers at a time when revenue is desperately needed.

MMA, as it’s known to fans, is legal in 48 states and regulated by state commissions in 45, note lobbyists for Ultimate Fighting Championship, MMA’s largest brand. 

Two self-proclaimed “knuckleheads from Tonawanda” have joined the fight after staging several successful amateur events here. Kudos are due the pair, trainer Don Lilly and fighter Eric Herbert. They are two of the MMA supporters suing the state, arguing the ban is a violation of their First Amendment right to free expression.

We think they’ve got a case.

But lawsuits aside, there’s also a political process in motion. Senate Republicans have passed a bill authorizing MMA in the Empire State for four years. Silver, who says he’s personally opposed to the fighting because he believes it sets a bad example for children, has never allowed it to the floor for a vote in his chamber, though it is believed there is enough support among rank-and-file lawmakers to pass it if he did.

In other words, Shelly Silver is applying a choke hold.

First, a point of logic: MMA is no more violent than boxing and injuries are no more likely to combatants than they are to any Buffalo Bills player on Sundays. 

And as for being good examples for children, would Mr. Silver like to address some of the shenanigans in professional wrestling, which, of course, is perfectly legal?

Don’t mistake us. MMA isn’t exactly our thing. It’s a rough-and-tumble affair, at times the picture of bloated machismo. But far more important than personal taste is this fact: Shelly Silver doesn’t get to decide for millions of New Yorkers what hobbies they take up and what sporting event they watch on a Saturday night.

Supporters estimate a single MMA event held at Madison Square Garden would generate $15 million in economic activity in New York. An event at First Niagara Center in Buffalo could generate $8 million. That’s a lot of cash to leave on the table because something offends our dear speaker’s sensibilities.

In some rather bright parliamentary maneuvering, Republicans included revenue generated from legalizing MMA in the budget their chamber passed last week. As budget negotiations continue, here’s hoping the one thing more important to Silver than pompous moralizing — spending taxpayers’ money — will sway his opinion.