MMA bill goes to Gov in Conn

Mixed martial arts was once despised, pushed from the airways, and frequently illegal. Eventually it was legal and regulated nearly everywhere in North America but New York and Connecticut. Connecticut statutes didn’t permit MMA, according to a legal interpretation from Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal.

Despite past attempts to thwart regulation of the sport by the Culinary Union, and the WWE, regulation in Connecticut finally arrived in 2013. And in 2016 New York became the last state or province to permit the sport.

However, the 2013 bill approved by Connecticut lawmakers had a poison pill slipped in by opponents on the final day of the vote – Promoters “shall be liable for any health care costs incurred by such competitor for the diagnosis, care and treatment of any injury, illness, disease or condition resulting from or caused by such competitor’s participation in such match for the duration of such injury, illness, disease or condition.”

While the vast majority of states require insurance for ambulance trips, dental emergencies, and hospital costs, the Conn bill was for life, and no promoter would commit. MMA continued in the state at Mohegan and Foxwoods, but not a single promoter risked putting on an event under the 2013 bill.

Now that is about to change. As reported by Daniela Altimari for the Hartford Courant, by a vote of 27 to 9, on Tuesday the Senate gave final legislative approval to House Bill 6266 that repeals the poison pill. MMA promoters are now required to provide the same liability insurance and death benefits that boxing promoters do. The bill was tied to an effort to expand gambling in the state – to get some urban lawmakers to support the bill for a third casino in East Windsor, approval of the MMA was required.

“Whether you like the sport or not, it’s popular,” said Sen. Tony Guglielmo, R-Stafford. “It’ll draw fans to these major cities. It will help with ancillary things…all the things our cities need to thrive and survive.”

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano avoided the human cockfighting trope but did compare MMA to Roman gladiator spectacles, the purpose of which was to kill. Still, he, too, caved.

“While I detest the sport and would never pay to see the sport…I [support] having legislation that does the best it could to protect those who wish to do it and bringing opportunity to our cities,” said Fasano. “It is not an illegal activity, it’s just a question of whether we’re going to pass it and regulate it.”

The measure now goes to Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (D). If he signs it, the bill will take effect on October 1.