Though professional mixed martial arts is illegal in New York State, at least as of April 2013, it is legal to train in MMA in New York. There have been professional bouts in some MMA disciplines. A changing political outlook and other recent events suggest that New York State could eventually join the vast majority of other states that have legalized professional MMA.
Professional MMA was banned in New York State in 1997, at a time when the sport in the United States had fewer rules and a rougher reputation. Since then, tighter rules led to more states sanctioning MMA. The sport moved into the mainstream, with bouts on national TV and coverage on ESPN. In 2011, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) made a seven-year deal with Fox Sports for a reported $700 million.
By 2013, professional MMA was illegal in just two states – New York and Connecticut (though Native American owned Mohegan Sun and Foxwoods casinos in Connecticut are regular hosts of MMA events).
In early March 2013, the New York State Senate passed a bill to legalize MMA for the fourth straight year. As of the end of March 2013, the legislation continues to be blocked in the New York State Assembly. However, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver now says that he expects MMA to be legalized eventually and New York governor Andrew Cuomo says that he is “not opposed” to MMA.
Some argue that professional MMA has already been staged in New York. In 2012, the Theater at Madison Square Garden hosted two Muay Thai events. MMA advocates argue that if bouts featuring one martial art are permitted, mixed martial arts bouts should also be allowed.
Madison Square Garden’s website includes a section called “Fight Club.” As of the end of March 2013, this section was described as being for boxing, wrestling, Muay Thai and WWE. If you scroll down, there is also a section for “MMA & UFC,” suggesting that MSG is anticipating legalization of MMA in New York.
On February 16 and 17, 2013, the fourth annual MMA World Expo took place at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City. The Expo included some amateur MMA fights.
On March 23, 2013, the first sanctioned large-scale amateur MMA event in Manhattan in over a decade was held at the Hammerstein Ballroom. The event drew 1,500 fans even though most of the fighters were from out of town, giving rise to speculation as to how popular amateur MMA bouts in New York would be with fighters from local MMA studios.
Despite the professional MMA legal issues, there are a plethora of MMA in New York classes. Click here to learn more.