Interview with MMA Proponent Assemblyman Kenneth Zebrowski
Kenneth Zebrowski is the youngest member of the New York State Assembly, and the first to come out publicly in support of regulating mixed martial arts. Assemblyman Zebrowski was kind enough to share some of his thoughts on the issue with MMALB readers in the following interview.
MMALB: Why did you inject yourself into the MMA controversy in New York?
Zebrowski: It seemed that this year with this budget cycle and the budget problems around the country that it could be the perfect time to get this ban lifted. Sometimes you get certain things passed not necessarily because of the absolute merits, but because it was the right timing. I think in this budget cycle we may be able to take advantage of the economic downturn to do some things in the state that we have been trying to do over the years and this is one of them.
MMALB: Have you ever been to an MMA event or participated in MMA yourself?
MMALB: Why has it taken so long to lift the ban on mixed martial arts?
Zebrowski: To be honest with you, I think there is a lack of understanding of MMA among the state legislators, and I think there may be a generational gap because it is a newer sport. I am 29 years old, and I am the youngest member of the New York state legislature. Many older members just don’t watch, have never followed it, and sort of see it as a no-holds bar injury ridden sport. They don’t necessarily understand that it a tough sport with a certain amount of violence, but it has rules and if it is regulated you have real, legitimate athletes that train hard and a large fan base.
MMALB: Have you gotten any feedback since your column went out?
Zebrowski: Sure. I think there is growing support for the bill. When you look at an individual legislator and he is thinking to himself, do I have to cut funding to my schools when there is a possible other revenue source out there that I am not taking advantage of, because of possible misinformation. . .
MMALB: Speaking of the opposition, Bob Riley is basically the face of anti-MMA in New York. What is your relationship with him or what do you think of him as an assemblyman?
Zebrowski: I have a good relationship with Bob. He’s a very decent guy, well respected in the assembly, someone that thinks out his position on the issues, so I have nothing negative to say about Bob. I just think he’s wrong on this issue.
MMALB: Looking at the other side of the issue. Have you ever talked with anyone from UFC or their lobbying group about this?
Zebrowski: I have not. We’ve received e-mails from supporters and constituents, but no one from the UFC has reached out to me.
MMALB: What still has to happen for mixed martial arts to be regulated in New York?
Zebrowski: Last year the bill cleared the Arts and Tourism Committee. If it passes that same hurdle this year, it will go to the Codes Committee, which I am on. Then it would go to the floor to be voted on by the full assembly.
MMALB: I am not familiar with the Codes Committee, what is that?
Zebrowski: Codes Committee essentially is the committee that takes up anything that is a change of a code in New York. It’s really a far reaching committee that has jurisdiction over anything that’s really regulated through a major code of conduct in New York state law. But, if the new MMA regulations get passed as part of the Governor’s proposed budget, the bill wouldn’t even have to go through the committee process.
MMALB: How does that work?
Zebrowski: It is in kind of counter-intuitive, but within the budget there’s often times substantive law changes that have something to do with the revenue of the state. So, you can make substantive changes through the budget, and sometimes frankly that’s how a lot of things get passed because you vote up or down on a budget. We don’t take individual votes on every aspect of the budget.
MMALB: When is the earliest that the proposed budget would get voted on?
Zebrowski: The earliest it would probably be voted on would be the week of starting with the 22nd of March. There’s nothing procedurally that says we can’t adopt it earlier, but there’s no realistic chance of it taking place before then.
MMALB: So, how confident are you that one way or the other the bill to legalize MMA will end up passing in 2010?
Zebrowski: I’m increasingly confident this year. We have heard stats that maybe 80 or 90 percent of legislators have come around to support this. Now I don’t have that in writing anywhere, but that’s what my staff is telling me.
MMALB: Is there anything else you’d like to share with the readers of MixedMartialArtsLawBlog.com?
Zebrowski: People that read your blog and people that watch MMA as a whole, need to understand that writing me and writing other legislators is important. The more people that contact their legislators and explain to them that they are fans of this sport and make rational arguments for it, the more legislators will understand it really is a sport.
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