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Fri., Sep. 4
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Blankenbush’s views solidified by MMA bout attendance


Before attending an amateur mixed martial arts bout in Watertown on Saturday, Assemblyman Kenneth D. Blankenbush believed that the state Legislature in Albany should make professional matches legal.

And after attending the amateur event? He’s 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 on Tuesday.

New York is one of only two states that doesn’t allow professional mixed-martial arts bouts, according to those like Mr. Blankenbush who want to change that. But amateur events are permitted. Supporters of legalizing professional bouts say that it will help spur tax revenues and business for struggling upstate locales. Opponents, though, worry that 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 involves a combination of styles, like wrestling on the ground and striking and kicking while standing.

“Whenever you’re in a ring and there’s 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 staff and referees on hand to make sure that 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 or not, a worst of both worlds scenario. While professional matches would be regulated by the state under Mr. Griffo’s proposed legislation, amateur events are not regulated by the state, Mr. Griffo said.

So while regulated professional matches are not allowed, unregulated amateur matches are, Mr. Griffo said.

That could imperil the chances of making pro matches legal, Mr. Griffo said.

“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, Mr. Griffo thinks the chances are brightening in 2013.

“I think there’s growing support for this,” he said.

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