The Ultimate Fighting Championship picked up a big supporter—literally—in its battle to lift New York’s ban on professional mixed martial arts, but a new letter from prominent Assembly members might spell doom for the effort.
The UFC, mixed martial arts’ largest promoter, released a statement Monday from former NBA great Shaquille O’Neal, expressing support for the sport and urging lawmakers to allow it in New York. O’Neal, the 7-foot-1 big man who titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and the Miami Heat, said he has trained in mixed martial arts for 15 years.
“The state Assembly should allow a vote on the bill to legalize MMA,” O’Neal said in the statement. “The Senate has supported it and now it’s time for the Assembly to give New Yorkers a fair opportunity to be able to watch MMA at an arena in their hometown.”
The Assembly has never voted on the bill to lift the ban and regulate the sport, while the Senate has passed it four times. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (pictured next to O’Neal on the right) has said the Democrats in the chamber will meet behind closed doors to decide whether it will be put to a vote in the next two weeks.
But the Daily News reported Monday that 35 Assembly Democrats signed onto a letter to Silver urging him to block the bill, citing the violent nature of the sport and what they say is an anti-woman message. That would mean the Democrats wouldn’t have enough votes to pass the bill on their own, which may lead the conference to prevent it from coming to the floor.
(Photo via The Broadsheet Daily)