Legislation that would allow professional mixed martial arts events to be held in New York was approved by the state Senate Wednesday.
The bill sponsored by state Sen. Joe Griffo, S2755, was passed by a vote of 47-15. Cayuga County's three state senators -- state Sen. John DeFrancisco, R-Syracuse, state Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, and state Sen. Jim Seward, R-Milford -- voted for the MMA bill.
State Sen. Phil Boyle, a Republican, said he supported the state ban on mixed martial arts in 1997 when he served in the Assembly. But he believes the sport has changed and the ban should be lifted.
"That was then and this is now. And this is a completely different sport," he said. "There is much more regulation and it is much safer. If I can feel comfortable supporting this bill, anybody can feel comfortable supporting this bill."
One of the opponents of the bill, state Sen. Liz Krueger, criticized the violent nature of the sport and said if mixed martial arts is legalized in New York, there should be tougher rules in place.
"The Assembly has not seen fit to pass this," she said. "If it becomes law, I think it is crucial to have much stronger regulations that what they have in other states."
Supporters of the effort to allow professional MMA events in New York say it would have economic benefits for the state. A report released in 2008 found a New York City event would generate millions in economic activity. A UFC event in Buffalo would generate more than $5 million in economic activity, the report found.
"New York needs to capitalize on opportunities that would continue strengthening our economy," Senate Republican Leader Dean Skelos said in a statement. "I applaud Senator Griffo for leading the charge to legalize MMA in New York to help create jobs, generate revenue, and bring our state in line with nearly every other state."
The bill now goes to the Assembly for consideration. The Senate has passed the MMA legalization bill before, but the Assembly has not voted on the measure.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Wednesday it's possible MMA will be allowed in the future, but didn't say if he would bring the bill to the Assembly floor for a vote this year.