(Photo courtesy of Newsday.)
Great news, fight fans — we now officially know more New York State Assemblymen who support the regulation of MMA in New York than those who are against it.
A lifelong resident of Long Island, Rob Walker has been a member of the New York State Assembly since 2005 and currently sits on the Assembly Committee for Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development. And like our friend Jonathan Bing, Walker is a co-sponsor of the bill to lift the MMA ban in New York. We called Assemblyman Walker at his office yesterday to discuss the public support for MMA in Long Island and why it’s finally time for New York State to say "yes" to safe, sanctioned competition.
CAGEPOTATO.COM: How did you become involved with the Tourism, Arts and Sports Development Committee?
ROB WALKER: Prior to my election, I was the deputy commissioner of parks in the town of Oyster Bay, so it was just logical that when they handed out committee assignments, I’d wind up on the committee that oversees parks, recreation and tourism. I took my role in local government and brought it to the State Legislature.
What initially drew you to the MMA regulation issue?
First and foremost, I actually have some constituents and friends that have been fighting in New Jersey and everywhere else, and they brought it to my attention that we can’t even hold events because it’s not sanctioned in New York State. So that was the first knowledge I had of the sport, and then with the bill that was coming out last year we got more intimately involved and gained some more knowledge of what it’s about. We’re just trying to learn all we can before we take some action.
Why is it a good time to finally lift the ban on MMA in New York?
I think there are a couple reasons. First, the economic advantages are quite apparent. And it’s also what we’re competing against — New York is competing against many states that border it, and we’re losing out. Our residents are going across state lines to compete, and why should New York be one of five or six states that don’t allow participation in MMA? What’s ironic about this bill is that it’s not even demanding that the athletic commission remove the ban; we’re simply giving the athletic commission the ability to go in and see if they want to provide sanctions.
What do you think of Assemblyman Bob Reilly’s arguments that MMA would breed more violence in society, and that it would be economically harmful to New York?