Before attending an amateur mixed martial arts bout in Watertown on Saturday, Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush believed the state Legislature in Albany should make professional matches legal.
And after attending the amateur event? Hes even more convinced that fighters should be allowed to cage fight professionally, too.
The event certainly showed me how organized and how conscious they are about the safety of the fighters, Mr. Blankenbush, R-Black River, said Tuesday.
New York is one of only two states that doesnt allow professional mixed martial arts bouts, according to those such as Mr. Blankenbush who want to change that. But amateur events are permitted. Supporters of legalizing professional bouts say it will help spur tax revenues and business for struggling upstate locales. Opponents, though, worry the sport is too barbaric.
Mr. Blankenbush is in the first group, in part because of his attendance at the amateur Watertown event. Mixed martial arts combines styles such as wrestling, striking and kicking.
Whenever youre in a ring and theres a contest like that, there is going to be a violent component of that, just like there is in boxing, in football, in all of the sports that have contact, Mr. Blankenbush said.
He said he was impressed by the medical staffs and referees efforts to make sure the fighters were safe.
State Sen. Joseph A. Griffo, R-Rome, is the leading advocate in Albany to make professional bouts legal. But he saw an irony in the fact that amateur bouts are legal while professional ones are not, a worst-of-both-worlds scenario.
While professional matches would be regulated by the state under Mr. Griffos proposed legislation, amateur events are not regulated by the state, he said.
So while regulated professional matches are not allowed, unregulated amateur matches are, he said.
That could imperil the chances of making pro matches legal, he added.
The concern is that something could go wrong in the amateurs, which would impact what we can do professionally, Mr. Griffo said. Something goes bad from an amateur perspective, they say, See? This is what we warned you about.
Mr. Griffo has fought for years to make professional bouts legal, and with the recent retirement of a few foes in the Assembly Democratic caucus, he thinks the chances are brightening for 2013.
I think theres growing support for this, he said.