New York’s MMA Ban: Assemblyman Bob Reilly Says Fighting Can Cause Concussions


State lawmakers — on both sides of the aisle — are expected this month to reintroduce a bill that would lift New York’s ban on mixed martial arts fights like the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) — but Assemblyman Bob Reilly’s trying to piss on the parade.

In a letter to Governor Andrew Cuomo, first obtained by the Albany Times Union, Reilly urges the governor to take a stand against the expected legislation because MMA fights can cause concussions, and organizations like UFC don’t do enough to prevent or treat rattled brains.

From Reilly’s letter to the governor:

While UFC officials and proponents argue that the type of head injuries suffered by MMA fighters are mild compared to the repeated hits to the head of other major sports including boxing and football, the evidence suggests otherwise. That is, powerful knockout blows, repeated head trauma and concussions have serious consequences on the long term health of athletes. A recent study by National Geographic documents the severity of the hits by MMA fighters which exceed all other sports. Additionally, as MMA is a relatively new phenomenon, there have been no real long term studies such as those conducted by the NFL to indicate the impact to the health of aging or retired fighters.

MMA fighting was banned in New York state in 1997 by then-Governor George Pataki. Only three other states currently have a ban on the bare-knuckle fights.

After years of lobbying to lift the ban, the UFC sued the state last
year, claiming MMA fighting is public entertainment — that it’s
“expressive activity” — and therefore protected by the First Amendment.

“While there surely are spectators who watch solely because of their misconceived hopes of seeing ‘violence,’ ” UFC says in its lawsuit, “countless fans watch M.M.A. because of the variety of positive messages conveyed.”

We’re not sure what “positive messages” are conveyed by people beating the ever-loving shit out of eachother, but it’s certainly fun to watch. Regardless, state lawmakers like Reilly — and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — seem to think it’s their job to pick and choose which “sports” are allowed in New York.

The bill to lift the ban passed in the state Senate earlier this year, but was blocked from the budget passed last month. State legislators say they hope to reintroduce the bill by the end of the month and pass it before the end of this year’s legislative session.

UFC officials didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment. We’ll let you know if they get back to us. Meantime, click here to read Reilly’s letter to the governor.