Updated 04/19/2012 09:11 PM
Round eight between Assembly and MMA
A bill to legalize mixed martial arts heads to the State Assembly where it's failed seven times in the past. YNN's Chris Whalen visited a local MMA training facility to see what fighters and staff had to say about the legislation.
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BINGHAMTON, N.Y. -- James Rodriguez trains regularly in Binghamton, but as it stands right now, the up and coming MMA fighter can't compete in any matches in the area, or anywhere in New York State for that matter.
"Everything that comprises mixed martial arts, all the major components of it, are already legal here in New York, it's only when everything comes together that suddenly we have a problem," Rodriguez said.
New York is one of only five states in the country in which MMA competitions are banned. Wednesday, the State Senate passed a bill to legalize it for the third time in three years, but now the bill heads to the Assembly where it has failed seven times before, with many legislators citing its violent nature as the reason why.
"There's constant drug testing, referees in there and judges who are paying close attention to these fights, ensuring the safety of the fighters, as I said, this is the most regulated sport out there," Rodriguez said.
Despite its ban, mixed martial arts is growing rapidly with new, and young, athletes trying it every day. Its growing popularity, some say, could translate into big money for a cash-strapped government.
"The sport itself is taking off. There's a huge addition to revenue and with New York State having a crisis with revenue, I feel it could be a major booster," said CNY MMA program director Kyle Aldrich.
While many up and coming fighters train at CNY MMA, many others have come through the school as well, like UFC light heavyweight champion Jon 'Bones' Jones.
Jones trained at CNY MMA's gym in Cortland. The Endicott native is set to defend his title Saturday against Rashad Evans, another native New Yorker. With two of the sport's biggest names hailing from the Empire State, that might be just the momentum the bill needs to pass.
"People in the area love to see someone from their hometown going out there and competing at the highest level you possibly can. It's definitely boosted awareness," Aldrich said.
But whether or not 'Bones'’ next fight will come within the New York borders still rests in the hands of the Assembly.