UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey is lobbying for New York to legalize MMA, citing the dangers it presents in its current form.
Speaking with SI's Jon Wertheim on SI Now, Rousey discussed how she lobbied New York state legislators to join the 49 other states in legalizing MMA. New York is the only state that does not permit professionally sanctioned fights.
"MMA is still [in New York] but only on an amateur level," Rousey said. "So there is no kind of medical testing. Athletes that can't compete in other states for medical reasons can actually come and compete in New York. There's no kind of testing to make sure that there's no blood diseases being spread around, there's no kind of drug testing to make sure that no drugs are being taken. There's no pregnancy tests for the women that are competing, so they could be competing pregnant without their knowledge. And there’s no education for the referees.
"This is the most dangerous place to do MMA and 1,600 New Yorkers competed here last year. We need to do everything that we can to keep them safe, and saying that we're keeping MMA illegal and keeping it out of the state is entirely not the case. In fact, we're keeping it here and keeping it dangerous. We need to protect our fighters."
Rousey, 28, met with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and several other state leaders last week and expressed optimism that MMA could become sanctioned in New York this year considering former Speaker of the New York State Assembly Sheldon Silver is no longer in office. A long-time opponent of the bill to legalize MMA bouts, Silver was indicted on federal corruption charges in January.
On SI Now, Rousey said continually making sure government officials are informed about MMA has been a major aspect of her push to get the sport sanctioned in New York.
"A lot of times, I feel like people are very misinformed about the issue," Rousey said. "They think it's about keeping the sport of out the state when it's really about making the sport that's already here safe. It's really just an educating process. There's a lot of stereotypes about the sport because it's very new, and people think that it's a lot more dangerous than it is. It's much safer than football, much safer than boxing. It's much safer than Judo, which I was called an American hero for getting a medal in the Olympics. But now I'm doing MMA, which is a much safer sport, and I'm actually making money instead of going into debt, and I'm suddenly a barbarian? It doesn’t make sense.
"Also saying it’s an anti-women's sport—I’m the No. 1 draw in the sport and I'm a woman. How is this anti-woman? Fighting isn't a man’s thing, it's a human thing. To say it's anti-human, I think, is an anti-feminist statement."
- Mike Fiammetta