Silver takedown big win for MMA
Feb 12, 2015 | 5537 views | 0 0 comments | 104 104 recommendations | email to a friend | print
There could be more to celebrate in the indictment of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver than simply the cleanup of corruption and old-school politics if you are a fan of mixed martial arts (MMA).

New York is the last state in the country to ban MMA events like those featured in the Ultimate Fighting Championship league.

MMA officials have long contended that a vote to legalize MMA was continually blocked by Silver, despite overwhelming support from the Democratic majority in the Assembly. The State Senate has already passed its own bill legalizing the sport.

Critics say Silver's opposition had less to do with his feelings on the sport, and more to do with appeasing his union support. Unions in Las Vegas have been involved in a dispute with UFC officials, a disagreement that has little to nothing to do with New York and MMA.

The argument is that unions used their significant political sway in New York to get back at the UFC.

It's the type of backroom political deal that serves the interest of a few connected groups and does a disservice to the whole, the exact type of situation that has plagued Albany for decades.

The sport was first banned under Governor George Pataki in 1997. The former governor actually supports legalizing MMA now, noting that the sport has come a long way in training, medical oversight and general regulations.

And that is the point. Regardless of how you feel about MMA – critics argue that it is cruel and even promotes a homophobic and misogynistic attitude – no one can argue that the sport has entered mainstream America. It has arguably become more popular than boxing, because the best in the sport are required to compete against each other instead of dodge big fights.

But the fact that New York is the only state that still bans MMA really tells you all you need to know.

Silver's replacement, Bronx Assembly Carl Heastie, was a co-sponsor of the Assembly bill to legalize MMA, and insiders say he is poised to push allowing the sport in the state, but plans to proceed cautiously.

In the grand scheme of what Silver was accused of and what eventually cost him his speakership, clearing up this political arrangement is at the bottom of the totem pole. But at the very least it signals that government will be serving the wishes of the majority and not the well-connected minority.

Let's hope it's the start of a trend in state politics.

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