For the seventh straight year, New York’s Republican controlled senate has voted to end the ban on MMA in New York. New York is the only state in the country with a ban on MMA. In its newest set of provisions, the senate would require additional funding to care for injured fighters and for those with long-term degenerative brain conditions sustained while in the ring.
In 2015, the UFC, the sport’s largest MMA promotional company, grossed around $600 million in revenue from MMA in the United States. It is obviously a lucrative and popular sport, and participants in New York have been anxious to see it legitimized in their state. Lawmakers opposed to the regulation of the sport have questioned its safety, as brain injuries for boxers and other athletes in physically aggressive sports have been on the rise.
It appears likely that MMA will have its day in New York very soon. The question remains about the long-term effects on the fighters, the lopsided benefits to fighters and promoters, and the general direction of sports in the United States. While colleges and even pro football advocates are taking steps to protect players as they and their families are calling the common injuries to the athletes into question, it seems that inviting a sport as injurious as MMA into New York will set the state and the fighters up for steep medical and insurance costs that, if handled in the athletes’ best interests, will compromise the anticipated revenue from the sport.
How do we care for our athletes, whether MMA fighters or others? What price are we willing to pay as athletes ourselves? Perhaps the caution with which New York has proceeded should be an example to the rest of the nation in regard to considering the welfare of the athletes above the income they may bring to the tourism industry.