Connecticut moved closer to allowing professional mixed martial arts matches when a bill to allow state-regulated contests was voted out of the Public Safety and Security Committee Monday.
The Legislation has already drawn criticism from some who feel the sport is too violent for the state to sanction it, especially when lawmakers are in the midst of answering a charge to reduce violence.
Connecticut, which bans the sport, is one of only four states that does not regulate mixed martial arts matches. Last year, Vermont became the 46th state to approve regulation.
Though the brutality of the sport causes some elected officials to oppose the legislation, Bridgeport Mayor Bill Finch, who supports the measure, said that the violent nature of the sport does not justify banning it.
"Football and boxing also have well-documented histories of injuries…yet both are legal in the state of Connecticut," he said.
"The enactment of this bill will ensure safety in a sport that is being conducted now in this state with no regulation," said Charles Steedman, Chair of the Connecticut Sports Advisory Board, in testimony to the committee last month. He told lawmakers passing the bill would allow the state to set proper safety standards, select qualified officials and establish drug testing requirements.
Lawmakers have considered this issue in prior years as well, and last session the measure was voted out of committee, but died on the Senate floor.
UFCChairman & CEO Lorenzo Fertitta praised the committee vote Tuesday. "On behalf of all the Connecticut UFC and MMA fans, I'm hoping that this year, finally, the General Assembly will pass this bill," he said.
"This bill is important to our large cities as well, putting Hartford and Bridgeport in a unique position to have additional revenues that will be derived from the opportunity to host these events in our larger capacity event areas," said Rep. Matt Ritter, in testimony to the committee during a public hearing on the bill.
The bill has 30 co-sponsors.