Way back when (circa 2000), MMA was banned in many states. In the places where it was legal, the bloodsport was regulated with varying degrees of competency. Today, the MMA map looks quite different as sanctioning and better rules have spread across the land. With one notable holdout.
(Map courtesy of the UFC. Green states have sanctioned MMA; yellow ones have not.)
The yellow state that jumps out at any sports fan is New York. And the reason New York is still yellow is due largely to the efforts of one ignorant man, Assemblyman Bob Reilly (D).
Reilly objects to MMA's violence on ethical grounds and argues that the sport would adversely impact New York's economy. What Reilly can't seem to grasp is that MMA is going to take place regardless of whether it's regulated or not. That's how it happened way back when, with fighters reenacting Chuck Palahniuk novels in local gyms and empty buildings. To some extent, that's how it still goes down now in New York, absent the safety measures and unified rules sanctioning bodies impose.
Reilly has succeeded only in making a sport that he complains is too brutal only more dangerous. Here's an excerpt from an ESPN story about the main underground combat league in New York, the creatively named Underground Combat League:
To compare neighboring states, New Jersey features 19 amateur weight categories. Underground Combat League has none. And although [promoter Peter] Storm attempts to match opponents by size and experience, he has made fights between competitors with more than a 100-pound weight differential. Kicks to the head are prohibited in New Jersey, as are elbow strikes, heel hooks and other techniques. Virtually anything goes in New York; it's up to the fighters involved to determine their rules. Prefight and postfight medical examinations are required in New Jersey. Not so in New York, where a medical presence rarely extends beyond EMTs, who are paid by Storm. Amateur fighters in the Garden State are also subject to blood testing for HIV and hepatitis B and C. "I can't tell you how many [times] you have someone that has hep C or HIV or fails a drug test," [New Jersey State Athletic Control Board legal counsel Nick] Lembo said. "You're really putting everyone at risk without checking for those things."
Reilly's efforts have done nothing but keep a dangerous sport underground, where it's infinitely more dangerous. Well done.