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Advocates campaign for legalized mixed martial arts

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Mike Desmond/WBFO News
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With the state legislative session nearing its end, there is a renewed push to legalize professional mixed martial arts in New York.Legalization legislation is stalled in the Assembly Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts, and Sports Development after passing the Senate for the fourth year in a row. Amateur fights are legal. Chair Margaret Markey says she won't let the bill out of her committee.

Cheektowaga Assemblyman Dennis Gabryszak, a member of the committee, says he now backs allowing professional mixed martial arts and says it would pass the full house if it came up to a vote, especially with the backing of Majority Leader Joseph Morelle.

Trying to build support for the change are Leaders of Ultimate Fighting Championship, who made a statewide swing Wednesday, finishing up in First Niagara Center.

Ryan LaFlare is a mixed martial arts fighter who owns a gym on Long Island and wants to fight in the state. He says it doesn't carry the long-term physical risks of football or hockey.

"You could change your game up and become more of a methodical wrestler who likes to slow the pace down. So, you could start off with one style and end up another style, bring it to the ground and slow the pace down. That's the real cool thing about the sport," LaFlare says.

UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta says his group wants state regulation control by the State Athletic Commission to ensure safety. He also says there would be a lot of tax and tourism revenue holding the matches around the state, saying an event in Toronto last year sold $12 million in tickets.

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