Rhonda Rousey Visits Albany to Lobby for MMA Legalization
Mixed martial arts is a popular sport, drawing the attention of millions of fans across the United States and around the world. Despite this popularity, the fights are currently prohibited in New York, the only state in the U.S. to hold such a ban. However, if Rhonda Rousey has her way, that could soon change: the prodigious female athlete is set to meet with lawmakers in Albany to discuss legalizing the controversial bouts.
On Monday, March 30 and Tuesday, March 31, the Ultimate Fight Champion bantamweight star met with Governor Andrew Cuomo and state legislators to lobby for MMA fights in New York. If she is successful, this could lead to bouts being held in a number of prominent state venues, including Madison Square Garden and Barclays Center. While previous efforts have ended in disappointment, Rousey’s visit could come at a pivotal moment: Cuomo and state lawmakers are reportedly close to adding a provision to the state budget that would legalize MMA. Moreover, Cuomo has hinted that the sport could be extremely beneficial to upstate areas after he decided to ban fracking in February. This decision was extremely controversial in New York’s Southern tier, with several small towns threatening to secede from the state and join Pennsylvania.
“This is a big sport, and it’s growing,” Cuomo said in a statement in early March. “It can create jobs and economic growth in the state of New York — and I’m interested in it.”
The UFC, which promotes and enforces MMA regulations in the U.S., is reportedly optimistic about Rousey’s chances: organization spokesman Steve Greenberg said he is hopeful that the star athlete will be able to start a conversation among the Democratic members of the Assembly, particularly female legislators who are worried the sport is too barbaric and violent. By discussing potential benefits and safety measures, including major fight gear, it is possible that Rousey will be able to sway some of these nervous lawmakers.
“Legalization of MMA will help bring the sport to further popularity, as well as bring important safety requirements to the sport as well. MMA is growing quickly, and it’s only going to get bigger,” says Amy Wang, Brand Manager at eeMore.com.
The president of the UFC, Dana White, was particularly excited about the sport’s progress when he visited Albany himself in mid-March. “We’ve been fighting for this for years,” he told the New York Post. “This has been a long time coming.”
The industry has long been suspicious that corruption was holding back their progress, with many alleging that former Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver had ties to interests in Las Vegas who would have suffered from competition with New York City. Now that Silver has been replaced by Speaker Carl Heastie, who is a supporter of MMA and who has co-sponsored favorable legislation in the past, many believe that the sport could finally have its day in New York.
However, the players in Albany might not be the sport’s biggest obstacle: some have speculated the legislation will likely be part of a larger agreement that includes controversial issues like ethics reform, tax credits for private schools, and more. Will the combination of these contentious matters stall the various issues, or even block them for the foreseeable future? Only time will tell.