State Senate passes bill that would regulate amateur mixed martial arts bouts like those held in Massena
Thursday, June 19, 2014 - 9:27 am

A bill to regulate mixed martial arts shows such as those that have been held in Massena over the last couple of years has been approved in the state Senate.

For the first time, it would establish rules and regulations for amateur mixed martial arts (MMA) bouts, according to Sen. Joe Griffo, sponsor of the measure. While amateur bouts have been allowed, there is a ban in New York on professional MMA matches.

St. Lawrence Centre in Massena has hosted at least four amateur MMA matches since Feb. 2013.

Griffo, a Republican from Rome, represents the towns of Massena, Brasher, Norfolk, Stockholm, Potsdam, Pierrepont, Russell, Clifton, Fine, and Pitcairn in St. Lawrence County, plus Lewis and Oneida counties.

Professional mixed martial arts are regulated with imposed time limits, a fixed number of rounds, licensed judges, five weight classes and almost three dozen other rules governing how bouts are fought.

Amateur bouts, by comparison, can be legally run in New York without a sanctioning organization, according to Griffo. This bill would address this inconsistency by putting the New York State Athletic Commission in charge of bouts.

“All want to make the bouts as safe as possible - not just for the fighters, but for the judges, refs and fans,” said Griffo. “However, there was a lack of consistency among amateur contests. Most promoters would ensure their bouts were sanctioned by an established and reputable organization. A few, however, put profit over safety and held bouts that put fans and fighters at unnecessary risk.”

This bill would bring the entire amateur realm under the oversight of the New York Athletic Commission.

A press release from Griffo’s office explains that the bill would establish a medical advisory board and commission to have jurisdiction over amateur matches. It would require participants to undergo a thorough physical examination, including neurological and neurophysical examinations, prior to being approved for a fight. No one could fight unless they were 18 years of age or older.

The bill would also prohibit fighters who suffered a knockout or technical knockout, or were rendered unconscious, from participating in a match for 90 days. It requires promoters to provide insurance for participants and reimburse athletes for medical, surgical and hospital care that was a result of participating in the program.

Without mandating it, the bill gives the commission the ability to require medical personnel and an ambulance at the site of match.

The bill also provides that any fighter, referee or judge who participates in an amateur match without being licensed by the commission would be guilty of a misdemeanor.

“Amateur bouts are a great way for up-and-coming fighters to get real ring experience,” said Griffo. “I want to keep them safe while they make their way to the top. And it’s my hope that the Legislature will legalize professional MMA so that we can cheer on our local fighters someday in Madison Square Garden or the Times-Union Center.”