NY Senate votes to legalize mixed martial arts

Mixed martial arts fighter Alexis Davis of Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada, poses at the Capitol on Tuesday, May 13, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. Davis, heading toward a championship fight in Las Vegas, is making the legislative rounds hoping to make New York the final state to allow professional mixed martial arts. (AP Photo)

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — Alexis Davis looked more like legislative staff than a Las Vegas-bound professional fighter as she made the rounds Tuesday at the New York Capitol as part of another push to legalize professional mixed martial arts.

The state Senate voted 44-16 to make New York the final state to permit pro bouts, its latest such vote in supporters’ six-year bid to make MMA legal in New York — and the lucrative New York City market. But the bill’s prospects remain uncertain in the Assembly, which has declined to follow the Senate and authorize the New York State Athletic Commission to regulate the sport like it does boxing.

The 29-year-old Davis, a native of Port Colborne, Ontario, near Buffalo, did interviews and met lawmakers just as other fighters — including Ronda Rousey, an ex-Olympic judo medalist and Davis’ bantamweight opponent July 5 — have come before.

In heels and skirt, the 5-foot-6, 135-pound Davis cut the figure of just another statehouse regular. Only the biceps evident under her purple blouse gave her away.

Davis said she came to the sport by way of a hometown gym at 18.

“For me it was getting in shape,” Davis said. “I fell in love with it, the competitiveness of it.”

The choke hold remains in the Assembly, where several legislators say the combination of kickboxing, judo and wrestling is too brutal and a bad example for children.

Supporters cite 60 Assembly co-sponsors and say it will pass if that chamber’s leadership allows a vote. They argue that the sport is on television, at venues in New Jersey and Canada and at Indian casinos within the state, and that regulation will raise it from the underground.

A spokesman for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said Tuesday they’ll discuss it in that chamber’s majority Democratic Conference.

“I don’t know if I want my kid doing it,” said Sen. Joe Robach, a Republican from Rochester, who voted for the bill. “But this is America.”

Davis, with a 16-5 professional record, said her parents often attend her fights. “They get a little nervous. After the fight, they can relax. My mom, she can’t eat all day.”

Davis could recall only one injury in a fight, a broken nose. She fights now for Ultimate Fighting Championship, which provides medical insurance. She hadn’t read the recent University of Toronto study of concussions and match-ending head trauma in contests between male fighters, concluding it was higher in MMA than football, hockey or boxing.

“No offense to any of the women but, when you come to this sport, it seems less likely dealing with women that you’re going to have to deal with concussions,” Davis said.

Davis, whose fiance teaches jiu-jitsu, said she doesn’t fear Rousey, whose signature move is bending an opponent’s arm opposite the elbow joint until she quits. Davis says her own is the rear naked choke.

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