Regardless of whether you follow who holds the latest Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title, you might want to pay attention to whether New York state will host mixed martial arts events. The fights could help energize the upstate economy.
You may think such events only would take place at major downstate venues such as Madison Square Garden in New York City, but the UFC head last week said MMA events would be scheduled in upstate cities.
Critics call the sport violent and say its stars have posted misogynistic tweets and videos to the Internet. They say MMA sends the wrong message to children and puts fighters in danger as they engage in a sport that includes boxing, judo, wrestling and kickboxing. But the activity is legal in 48 states and actively regulated in 45.
The sport was banned in New York in 1997 under then-Gov. George E. Pataki.
While holding a UFC event -MMA's biggest brand - might be illegal in this state, it's certainly not illegal to watch it. MMA events are televised, and the big fights are available on pay-per- view services.
By banning MMA in New York, our lawmakers aren't stopping any of the negatives of the sport from taking hold, they're only preventing its benefits from being felt here.
The Assembly has blocked the legislation for seven years, but now it looks like a legalization bill may be headed to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's desk. The Senate approved legalization, 47-14, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver earlier this month suggested the measure eventually would win approval.
Cuomo also had positive comments about MMA.
"We think that an event in upstate New York has the potential to draw people from the downstate area, from New England, bringing people for hotels; they're going to have an economic impact, you know, that would be persuasive," Cuomo said last week.
We urge state assemblymen to approve lifting the ban. They should consider the sport's positive economic effect on the state - especially upstate.
According to The Associated Press, UFC Chairman Lorenzo Fertitta said once the sport is legalized and regulated in New York, his group would hold at least four events a year for the next three years, more than half in cities across upstate New York.
"I have been to Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, Utica and Albany and would look forward to attending UFC events in all of those cities," Fertitta said.
With that commitment to upstate cities, especially Utica and Albany, which our area sits between, these annual events could help fight the region's economic doldrums.