Dec 03, 2011 Amanda Seef Uncategorized
A federal court could soon make a decision that would allow Jim Waldron to compete in his sport of choice in New York.
Waldron, 26, of Baldwinsville, is a competitive mixed martial arts fighter who travels out of state to compete, due to a ban in New York banning the sport from holding competitions or fights. But that ban is being challenged in federal court by Zuffa, the parent owner of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, or UFC. The suit, filed in mid-November, names the state’s attorney general, Eric Schneiderman, claiming the ban on the sport is unconstitutional and a violation of the First Amendment. The suit requests an injunction be placed on the state of New York, preventing the state from enforcing the ban.
“You can’t fight because of a state law? That’s a waste of time,” Waldron said. “It’s just a matter of time, just like anything else. It’s just typical New York.”
A bill allowing for the sport in the state passed on the senate floor two years in a row, but stalled on the floor of the assembly. MMA allows for striking and grappling, while combining martial arts techniques from jiu-jitsu, muay Thai, kickboxing, boxing, karate, wrestling and other fighting styles. The bill would allow venue owners to book competitive fights in the state and would place a 8.5 percent tax on revenue at the box office for MMA events. It has been banned in New York since 1997.
Check out the official complaint filed in federal court by Zuffa, the parent company of Ultimate Fighting Champtionship.
Waldron and other fighters at Curtis Tillman’s Mixed Martial Arts studio, in Driver’s Village, Cicero, are hoping the federal courts rule in favor of the fighters, in this renewed push to legalize the sport.
“I think it’s a good thing that they’re pushing it to that level, but it’s kind of sad that it has to get to that point — to federal court,” Waldron said.
Connor Irwin has been training in MMA for about a year and is disappointed the sport isn’t legal in the state.
“It didn’t even get a vote in the assembly,” Irwin, 19, of Cicero, said. “It’s a big industry. It’s a big sport. It’s probably the fastest growing sport in the world.”
Earlier this year, the UFC beat its own attendance records with 55,000 people at one event, bringing in more than $12 million for a one-night event.
Supporters of the MMA industry say the sport would be a boost to the local and state economy.
“I’m no business man, but I definitely think it would bring revenue to the state,” said Max Arevalo, 32, of Baldwinsville. Arevalo trains in Thai fighting, but would be interested in MMA fighting should it become legalized. Currently, the fighters travel out-of-state, something Arevalo doesn’t have time to commit to.
“A lot of people want to compete, but it’s tough to go out-of-state and travel,” he said.
The sport also helps teach discipline, respect and allows for self-expression, something the UFC is advocating in the suit in federal court. The business claims the ban is a violation of the First Amendment, which is an extension of the freedom of expression.
“You can express yourself,” said Brandon Culkin, 15, of Mattydale. “I wanted to get my frustrations out that I have in school. MMA really relaxes me and mellows me out.”
Culkin has been training at the gym for about six months, but he hopes to continue with it. He says his grades at North Syracuse Junior High School have increased about 20 points since starting with the sport.
Boxing commissions and fans of boxing have expressed their support of the MMA ban, saying the sport would bring a direct hit to their industry.
But Irwin sees it as healthy competition.
“In business, competition breeds the best,” Irwin said. “It will be the same with MMA and boxing.”
Opponents to MMA have long said the full contact sport is too dangerous and it promotes violence.
“It promotes violence? No. Watch any violence video game — they’re teaching kids to shoot people in the face,” Waldron said. “People are going to fight, it’s human nature. But at least MMA teaches kids to fight with their fists and not to pick up a knife or a gun.”
The sport is now heavily regulated after it was sensationalized as “no-holds barred” after its inception in the 1990s, UFC said in its 105-page complaint.
“It’s not just a bunch of street brawlers,” said Jessica Soble, 28, of Cicero. Soble has been training in MMA since taking an interest in martial arts at a young age. “People need to start recognizing MMA as a sport. It’s bloody. People see the blood and get afraid of it.”