LocalSYR

Amateur MMA event hopes to inspire legalization of professional version

The Oncenter in Syracuse was host to one of the biggest amateur Mixed Martial Arts events in the nation Saturday night.
Syracuse (WSYR-TV) - The Oncenter in Syracuse was host to one of the biggest amateur Mixed Martial Arts events in the nation Saturday night.

Organizers had more than a good time on their mind as they hope to convince naysayers that the sport should be legal in New York State.

New York is the only state in the nation where professional MMA is illegal.

Supporters hope to convince the state legislature to reverse that, using popularity and revenue as the reason.

The event was for amateurs only meaning the athletes did not get paid.

The event was expected to generate $200,000 through tickets, hotels and restaurant patrons.

Jim Simmons, a longtime MMA fan, said, "I actually have been to a fight in Virginia. I had to travel out of state for one of the guys competing tonight. It makes it so much better to not have to drive 6 to 7 hours, stay at a hotel overnight."

Supporters of legalizing MMA say the professional version would bring even more revenue. Tim Boda said, "New York is pretty progressive but for some reason, we're lagging behind."

Some cite the sport's violent image as the reason people are not on board. Boda said, "Anybody that thinks it's too brutal, come down. I'll give you a free ticket. Come in here, see what it's about."

Jackie Gates, a hometown favorite who won her bout Saturday said, "You've got to realize it's not a bad sport. We're like every other athlete. We just go out there to have fun, have a good time."

State Senator Joseph Griffo (R-Rome) sponsors the MMA bill. He said the bill has been passed in the Senate several times, but gets stalled in the Assembly because of political reasons. The State Legislature's new session begins in January where the bill will have a new chance.
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