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New York State Assembly legalizes professional mixed martial arts

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ALBANY, N.Y. — New York’s Assembly voted 113-25 Tuesday to legalize mixed martial arts, clearing the way for fights late this year and expanding the combat sport into the last state to still prohibit it.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo supports legalizing the combination of wrestling, kickboxing and judo. The state Senate has already passed the identical measure.

Critics call MMA too violent and like football and boxing prone to causing concussions and head injuries. Some said it inspires domestic violence and invites children to imitate it.

“This is barbaric and it should be banned,” said Assemblyman Charles Barron, a Brooklyn Democrat. “It goes too far for your entertainment.”

Provisions were added to reduce opposition, including raising the insurance required for fighter injuries to $50,000 and to $1 million for life-threatening brain injuries. It requires insurance of $50,000 for the estate of an athlete fatally injured.

Advocates say it has evolved from rougher early days with more rules to protect fighters, who are trained professionals. Meanwhile, it’s on television, and fighters train and amateurs already compete in New York in unregulated bouts.

Assemblyman Joseph Morelle, the lead sponsor, said the law will authorize the state to oversee the amateur bouts as well. “What we seek to do is essentially take the sport out of the shadows in New York,” he said.

Conducted inside a cage or other enclosure with a referee present, MMA fights end when one fighter quits or gets knocked out or when judges decide after 15 or 25 minutes of fighting who the winner is.

The Assembly left the ban intact for years over fears that the sport was too violent. A Democrat-controlled chamber approved MMA in 2007, then subsequently balked. The Republican-controlled Senate, initially reluctant, has voted to legalize it for seven straight years.

Assemblywoman Margaret Markey, a Queens Democrat who chairs the tourism committee, said she initially opposed MMA after running into a group of destitute ex-boxers. Added protections for fighters have made it “palatable, at least to me at this point in time,” she said, though said later she still has reservations.

The committee voted 15-5 for it.

Assemblywoman Pat Fahy, an Albany Democrat, noted those changes but voted against it, citing its violence and growing evidence of serious brain injuries and concussions in football and boxing.

“In football, concussions can be incidental to the game. Here, it is more part of the sport,” she said.

One early opponent was UNITE HERE, the hotel and restaurant workers’ union, publicly citing American Medical Association opposition and the potential social costs of teens imitating fighters. One consistent advocate is Ultimate Fighting Championship, the sport’s largest U.S. promoter, whose backers are major owners of nonunion Station Casinos in Las Vegas.

UFC has its eyes on hosting a major fight card late this year at Madison Square Garden and predicts there will be other professional shows next year in Brooklyn, Buffalo and smaller cities.

“I do support mixed martial arts because it’s also an economic generator,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo told reporters Tuesday in Niagara Falls. The state would collect 3 percent of gross receipts broadcast rights, not to exceed $50,000, and 8.5 percent from gross ticket receipts, as well as licensing fees.

Fighters wear small, fingerless gloves and little else. They punch, kick, elbow, grapple, knee, trip, tackle, slam and choke each other inside a cage.

The legislation puts MMA under the control of the State Athletic Commission, which regulates professional boxing with drug testing, officials and ringside doctors. It would have to prepare to do the same for MMA. The legislation, once signed by Cuomo, would take effect in 120 days, giving the commission time to issue rules and set up staffing.

The measure authorizes the state to study potential funding mechanisms for long-term care of fighters who develop degenerative brain conditions.

New York’s longstanding insurance minimums have been $7,500 for pro boxer and wrestler injuries and $100,000 for an athlete killed.

UFC 214: Jones heavy favorite against Cormier in co-main event

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If one believes a long hiatus from the Octagon benefits a fighter’s mystique more than technique, then the price might be right on Daniel Cormier.

Ahead of the most fervently anticipated rematch in the company’s history, Jon Jones is a -260 favorite against the +200 underdog Cormier in the co-main event for UFC 214 on Saturday, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The fight, which will top off a loaded main card at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, has been in the offing since about 30 seconds after Jones won an unanimous decision against Cormier early in 2015, but Jones’ doping suspension has prevented it from happening.

The prices have moved in Jones’ favor since he opened at -150 with Cormier coming back at +120. Before the layoff, Jones was perhaps the best fighter to ever grace the UFC and it’s understandable why fans believe he’ll use his long reach to keep Cormier at bay and get him in the clinch.

Cormier backers, though, can take heart in the belief that his takedown defense could be sharper than it was against Jones 2 1/2 years ago. The bottom line is it’s rare to get a champion at such a high price.

In the co-main event, welterweight champion Tyron Woodley (-205) is favored against challenger Demian Maia (+165). Maia, who is plus money for the first time since 2014 (a bout that he lost to Rory MacDonald in a unanimous decision), is singleminded about getting a match to the mat in order to work toward a submission.

If Woodley can keep his focus on his takedown defense and keep the fight on their feet, his edge in athleticism and youth might prove to be the determining factor.

The prices for the women’s featherweight title fight between Cristiane (Cris Cyborg) Justino (-1100) and challenger Tonya Evinger (+650) underscore the difficulty Cyborg has finding a foe.  Cyborg has ended her last seven fights early, five in the first round. It might be better to pore over the odds on how many rounds Evinger, a solid wrestler, can hang in for during a fight that she accepted on relatively short notice.

Robbie Lawler (-160) is a slight favorite against Donald Cerrone (+130) in a twice-rescheduled welterweight matchup. It’s hard to know what to expect from Lawler, who’s been set back by injuries since his last fight against Woodley exactly 52 weeks ago. Cerrone is often vulnerable against left-handers such as Lawler, but takes an edge in stamina into what shapes up as an all-out brawl.

The main card starts off with a light heavyweight title eliminator, where Jimi Manuwa (-190) is favored against Volkan Oezdemir (+150). Manuwa, who is on a three-fight win streak, is the more developed and technically proficient of the two strikers. That might give him the edge against Oezdemir. It could be a quick resolution either way – Manuwa has 10 first-round knockouts in 17 pro fights, while Oezdemir has a powerful left hand and ample motivation to get a knockout and score a fight-of-the-night bonus.

Mayweather and McGregor end press tour with a bang in London

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Sometime before Floyd Mayweather Jr. stole Conor McGregor’s microphone and before McGregor walked behind Mayweather and pretended to spank him, it might have been hard to understand why all this was happening.

The four press conferences in four days. The insults and posturing. The clothes. Nobody seems to be talking about the 40-year boxing legend with increasingly public financial problems getting paid to fight an MMA star in his first-ever boxing match.

And that’s the whole point.

No matter what goes down on August 26, when Mayweather and McGregor finally put on boxing gloves and start punching each other, Friday’s press conference in London will live on in sports history.

Here are some of the best moments:

McGregor calls Mayweather’s body guards “Juice Head Turkeys”

McGregor has called out pretty much every member of Mayweather’s entourage this week, including his body guards. Earlier on the press tour, Mayweather ordered his security team to surround McGregor and some minor shoving ensued.

Apparently, the incident left a mark. McGregor had some choice words for those body guards on Friday and called them “juice head turkeys” from inside the ring.

Feel free to Google that expression, unless you’re offended by Thanksgiving arts and crafts or holiday recipes.

McGregor rubs Mayweather’s head

If McGregor were fighting, say, Adrian Beltre, this wouldn’t have gone down so smoothly.

But in one of the more revealing moments of the press conference, Mayweather  tried visibly not to laugh as McGregor rubbed his head and cracked some bald jokes. His best line might have been pointing out Mayweather’s fondness for wearing hats in public and asking him “What the [expletive] were you hiding under that thing?”

Mayweather does a chokehold in front of McGregor

McGregor’s most recent loss came against Nate Diaz in 2016, as the Irish fighter tapped out when Diaz put him in a rear naked choke-hold. Mayweather didn’t plan on letting McGregor forget that on Friday. Imitating the MMA move in front of his opponent, Mayweather even had his DJ cue up a few bars of Rich Gang’s 2013 single “Tapout.”

He then asked the decidedly pro-McGregor crowd why they decided to put their faith in “this quitter,” before asking them to get Nate Diaz on the phone.

“If you quit once, you quite twice,” Mayweather said. “If you quit twice, you quit three times. But on the fourth time, I’m going to knock you the [expletive] out.”