Morelle: When, not if, for mixed-martial arts in NY

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Assemblyman Joseph Morelle — who is taking over a bill to legalize mixed-martial arts bouts in New York state — said today that he believes the combat sport will eventually be allowed, but it’s a matter of when.

A bill to legalize and regulate professional mixed-martial arts events in New York passed the Senate yesterday, and Ultimate Fighting Championship executives say they’re encouraged by it’s chances in the Assembly in large part because Morelle — a 22-year veteran in the chamber — has taken over as sponsor.

“In my view, my personal opinion, this is not a matter of if it happens but when it happens,” Morelle said.

Morelle himself is a martial artist. He’s hoping to soon test for his black belt in Isshinryu Karate, he said.

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said yesterday that he has mixed feelings on the bill, which has been pushed by UFC officials for the past five years. It dies in the Assembly Ways & Means Committee last year.

Morelle said he understands the concerns about the violence of the sport, but said its not different from others.

“I think for those folks who think that it’s too violent, I certainly appreciate that,” he said. “I think we’ve got rules that can make sure that the fighters are safe. But to somehow suggest that boxing is not violent or football is not violent seems to me is kind of silly.”

“I just believe at the end of the day it’s good economics (and) we can make this safe,” he added.

Here’s video of Morelle chatting with reporters earlier:

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