A push to make mixed martial arts fully legal in New York has intensified, as the Association of Boxing Commissions has sent a letter to New York's top politicians, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, seeking to regulate non-professional MMA events.
The letter calls for the state to direct the New York State Athletic Commission to regulate such events that currently are allowed in New York.
This letter dovetails with the effort by Las Vegas-based MMA operation Ultimate Fighting Championship to lobby the state legislature to pass a bill to make pro MMA legal in the state. The push would ultimately overturn the 1997 bill that bans pro MMA in New York.
"New York State's choice to allow wholly unregulated MMA amateur bouts has created a grave safety risk to both athletes and spectators not only within this State, but indeed throughout North America," the ABC wrote in its letter, which was sent to Cuomo, attorney general Eric Schneiderman, assembly speaker Sheldon Silver, secretary of state Cesar Perales and majority leader Dean Skelos.
Unregulated MMA cards are featured throughout the state regularly, and the current regulations permit them as long as the athletes taking part are not compensated. The United States Muay Thai Association is overseeing one such amateur MMA show Saturday night at St. Raymond High School in the Bronx.
The ABC, comprised of athletic commissions and regulatory bodies from 83 states and jurisdictions in North America, wants laws tweaked so the NYSAC regulates MMA cards.
"Virtually every other jurisdiction requires that promoters of amateur, as well as professional, MMA bouts participate in and utilize national databases designed to ensure and promote safety in the sport," the letter says.
A stated goal of the ABC is to promote safety in not only boxing, but other professional and amateur combative sports. Their letter points out that fighters on unregulated cards aren't drug tested, there is no requirement for an ambulance or a physician to be on site, and athletes who are knocked out or suffer concussions are not protected by a system of mandatory disclosure and subsequent medical review.
"It's a very good letter," Marc Ratner, vice president of regulatory affairs for UFC, said. "I think it could help. The letter shows how nonsensical it is to have unregulated amateur fights and not approve pro fights."
UFC president Dana White is so confident that the New York MMA ban won't last that he has put a hold on Madison Square Garden for one night in November to hold the first UFC event in New York.
"I've been saying it for so long, that I'm optimistic this is going to happen," White told NYFightblog this week. "I'm just very optimistic. It's ridiculous it hasn't been done yet. I'm so confident I'm picking a date. We've been working for years with Madison Square Garden, they're a huge supporter and want us to do the first ever MMA event there."
UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, who lives in Ithaca, N.Y., is a fan of that idea.
"Do I think UFC will run a show at Madison Square Garden in November? Yes. Do I think it's a good idea for me to headline the show? Yes," he said.
Mike Woods is a contributor to ESPNNewYork.com.