Tonawanda News — Professional mixed martial arts, one of the fastest growing sports in the U.S., is illegal in New York state and has been since 1997. The UFC and its parent company, Zuffa, have been fighting for the past four years to legalize the sport, but to no avail. There was hope in June 2012 when a bill to overturn the state’s ban made it to the State Senate and was passed, but it never reached a vote in the Assembly.
So in November, Zuffa filed a lawsuit against the state citing that the ban is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment right to freedom of expression.
Victory MMA promoter and Tonawanda native Don Lilly recently joined the fight against New York state. He’s a plaintiff in the lawsuit, joining UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, Gina Carano, Frankie Edgar, Matt Hammill and Dana White.
“I want the state athletic commission to basically govern MMA,” Lilly said. “Govern MMA just like boxing and pro wrestling to try to give the athletes some kind of guidance. Since Eric (Herbert) and I did the first T-NT show, there have been like eight other promotions which have popped up around New York state.”
The T-NT fight series, put on by Victory MMA, is an amateur promotion, which has been legal since 2010 when, Lilly said, the state came out and said so. The series continues this Saturday night when its third show goes live at 7:30 p.m. at Rainbow Rink in North Tonawanda.
But Lilly thinks that professional MMA should be legal and that’s why he’s advocating for the change, and that’s why he spent an entire weekend in Manhattan in early February. One route that may be the key into New York state is through an outside commission.