ALBANY, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Former mixed martial arts champion Chris Weidman wants his title back and wants to fight in New York, where the sport is banned.
Surrounded by lawmakers Tuesday, the Long Island native said he’d like to fight in Madison Square Garden, a short train ride away for fans and fellow fighters who train at his Garden City gym.READ MORE: New York State Legislature Votes To Curb Gov. Cuomo's Emergency Powers
Republican Sen. Joseph Griffo said the Senate will vote again to legalize the sport this year.
“It makes no sense why New York is the last place in North America, not only the United States, even the provinces of Canada allow the sport,” said Griffo. “So I’m hopeful that we’ll get this accomplished and New Yorkers now can spectate or participate in something that is taking place across our country.”
The state Senate has passed the bill for six consecutive years. Democratic Assembly Majority Leader Joseph Morelle said they’re getting “very close” to having enough votes to pass legislation to regulate the sport.
As CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported, officials are optimistic about passing the legislation for several reasons, including public support from Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who called for the legalization in his new budget.
Also a key roadblock, former Assembly Speaker Sheldon, was recently convicted on corruption charges.
“Silver’s absence obviously does help,” Griffo said.READ MORE: Brooklyn Mom Wants NYC Apartments Inspected Annually After Parts Of Ceiling Crash Down On 12-Year-Old Son
Advocates suggest mixed martial arts would be an economic boon to the entire state.
A study conducted in 2015 by Ultimate Fighting Championship — a fight promoter — found that 70 fights would generate $67 million in annual spending and $22 million from out-of-state and international tourism as well as create 525 jobs.
Critics argue the mix of boxing, wrestling, kick boxing and jiu-jitsu is too violent. Manhattan Sen. Liz Kruger worries about medical issues like concussions and repetitive brain injuries.
“How can we legalize a sport which has shown time and again to have tragic consequence for its participants? Because promoters and even the state can make money off of it?” Kruger wrote. “I’m sorry, but no price will make up for the damage this will do to the New Yorkers who partake in this sport.”
Weidman said it’s no more violent than other sports when properly regulated.
Promoters said they hope to bring mixed martial arts fighting to Madison Square Garden, the Barclay’s Center and other arenas throughout the state.MORE NEWS: Immersive Public Art Installation Now On Display At Domino Park
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