Martial arts matches legalized, to be regulated

Hartford - Gov. Dannel P. Malloy legalized amateur and professional mixed martial arts on Thursday by signing House Bill 5277.

The unarmed combat sport will be controlled similarly to boxing, according to the bill. Licensing, taxes, match rules, ticket prices, minimum age limits and violations will be regulated. The Mohegan Sun Casino and Foxwoods Resort Casino already have mixed martial arts along with 48 other states. MMA fighting includes grappling, kicking, jujitsu and striking.

Five lawmakers from southeastern Connecticut voted against the bill, while seven voted in favor and one lawmaker was absent from the vote.

State Rep. Tim Bowles, D-Preston, who voted in favor of the bill, said he honestly would like to reassess his position.

"In terms of contributing to a violent culture I am concerned about that and it's a bill that I tend to regret," Bowles said on Thursday.

But he added, it can already be viewed in Connecticut at the casinos and the state already has other violent sports such as boxing.

Legislators from Bridgeport were some of the strongest advocates for the bill and said the sport would help their region economically.

"I think it really had to do with the convincing argument that there could be some economic benefits in cities by having that entertainment," Bowles said.

State Sen. Andrea Stillman, D-Waterford, who voted against the bill, said she was highly opposed to MMA and remains opposed even after a related bill was signed by the governor that would require people contracting MMA competitors to cover their health care costs that arise from participating in the activity.

"I am disappointed that the governor signed it, but I also understand the politics," she said. "It's certainly not something I am interested in attending."

Some legislators in favor of MMA have argued that it at least would be regulated.

One regulation gives the state's Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection commissioner the right to refuse a license to an operator planning an event in a community where there is a local ordinance prohibiting MMA. Other regulations include prohibiting betting on MMA matches; prohibiting matches on Christmas Day, Good Friday, Memorial Day and Veterans' Day; and prohibiting anyone under age 18 from engaging in a professional MMA match and anyone under age 16 from participating in an amateur MMA match. Minors can attend an MMA match or boxing match as long as a parent or guardian accompanies him or her.

Last month the Senate passed the bill, 26-9, and the House passed it, 117-26.

Voted no: Stillman, state Reps. Edward Moukawsher, D-Groton; Diana Urban, D-North Stonington; Elissa Wright, D-Groton; and Betsy Ritter, D-Waterford.

Voted yes: State Sens. Andrew Maynard, D-Stonington; Cathy Osten, D-Sprague; Art Linares, R-Westbrook; and state Reps. Kevin Ryan, D-Oakdale; Edward Jutila, D-East Lyme; Ernest Hewett, D-New London; and Bowles.

Absent: State Rep. Brian Sear, D-Canterbury.


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