Gov. Dannel P. Malloy signed a bill Thursday legalizing Mixed Martial Arts competition in Connecticut, despite expressing his personal distaste for the fighting sport on a number of occasions.
Beginning in October, the popular but violent contests including elements of wrestling, boxing, and karate, will be allowed in the state. Prior to Malloy’s signing of the bill, matches were allowed at the state’s two casinos which are located on the tribes’ sovereign land. Connecticut had been one of two states that banned the practice of MMA, which is still not permitted in New York.
There was some question as to whether the governor would sign off on the legislation. Asked about the bill in June after it was reluctantly approved by the legislature, Malloy made it clear he was not a fan.
“I don’t like the stuff but there’s a lot of things that I don’t like that are in the world. I can assure you I will not be attending an event. If I sign the legislation I will not be attending an event either at the casinos, where it’s currently allowed or any other facility. Not my bowl of porridge,” he told reporters.
Proponents of legalizing MMA, including House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, have argued the sport could attract large crowds to matches at venues in Hartford and Bridgeport. Although similar legislation has failed to pass the Senate in the past, freshman Sen. Andres Ayala, D-Bridgeport, made the concept a priority this year
Ayala argued that if Bridgeport’s Webster Arena sold tickets to matches it could have spin-off economic benefits for the city’s downtown businesses.
“The fact of the matter is that on evenings when the Webster Arena is dark, our downtown area is dark as well,” he said.
Despite opposition from both Sen. President Donald Williams and Majority Leader Martin Looney, the Senate sent the bill to Malloy’s desk. In addition to objections over the sports’ violence, Senate leaders had been concerned that passing the bill sent an “anti-union” message because of unfair labor complaints against MMA promoters in Las Vegas.
Near the end of the legislative session, the legislature also passed separate language making MMA promoters responsible for fighters’ health care costs relating to injuries sustained during the match. Williams said asking promoters to foot the bill for injuries sustained by participants was “the least we can ask of these folks.”