By STEPHEN KALIN Associated Press
HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) _ Mixed martial arts competitions could soon be hosted across Connecticut after the General Assembly gave final approval Wednesday to lift a ban on the sport.
The measure passed the Senate 26-9, following approval in the House of Representatives last month. The bill must still be signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, who hasn’t taken a position on it. New York is the only other state in the country where professional MMA matches are banned.
Though some matches are currently permitted at Connecticut’s Indian-run casinos, national promoters and venues in Hartford and Bridgeport have campaigned for years to host the fights. They say the competitions would create jobs and generate millions of dollars in revenues.
Democratic Sen. Andres Ayala called the proposal “a business bill” and said MMA events would “add vibrancy” to cities like Bridgeport, which he represents.
“This is a sport that is growing,” he said. “It is a sport that has a tremendous following to it.”
The state Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates that five annual MMA events would generate between $195,000 and $360,000 of revenue for state coffers. That would outweigh the estimated $40,000 to $90,000 cost of regulating the sport.
MMA is a form of fighting that features boxing, wrestling, taekwondo, judo and other disciplines. In 2008, then-Attorney General Richard Blumenthal ruled that the events were illegal under existing boxing laws and legislation would be necessary to allow them.
The Ultimate Fighting Championship, an MMA promoter, hailed the bill’s passage in a written statement Wednesday as a positive development for the state and MMA fans.
The bill mandates the sport’s regulation by the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, which proponents say would ensure safety standards similar to those in boxing.
Republican Sen. Len Fasano of North Haven said despite his personal disapproval of MMA, it’s not the state’s role to censor what people can watch.
“I believe the sport, and I don’t even like to call it that, is a gruesome, barbaric sport that should be back in the Roman times with the Roman Colosseum,” Fasano said. “I think it is a disgusting sport.”
But, he said, “It’s our obligation since it does exist to put certain rules and regulations to protect those who are not being protected. But I believe it is the most barbaric activity one could ever dream of, and it’s amazing to me that people tune into it or go to it.”
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