The state House of Representatives has overwhelming approved a bill to legalize mixed martial arts in Connecticut, but leadership in the Senate is unlikely to call the bill for a vote. As WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, that news is disappointing to some athletes and entertainment venues in the state.
When he's in the fighting cage, 30 year old Rafael Cruz of Middletown is known as the Black Rooster, his mohawk is dyed bright red to complete his look. "I'm a 4 and 2 amateur. I've fought for Premier FC in Massachusetts, all of my competitions have been in Massachusetts." He doesn't fight here because mixed martial arts events are banned except at venues owned by Connecticut's two tribal nations. The sport known as MMA combines several types of fighting like wrestling, boxing, and taekwondo. It's become very popular but local fans are left to watch competitions on television or travel out of state. That's a huge missed opportunity for Connecticut according to Charlie Dowd, Vice President of Operations at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport. "The trickle down effect would be significant revenue to the state due to ticket taxes, supplemental taxes imposed by MMA. Everybody in the building would work, including police fire, emt all of our employees, all our food and beverage employees and downtown Bridgeport woudl be jamming, not only restaurant and bars but also hotels." The legislation before state senators would not only permit MMA events in venues across the state but also calls on the state Commissioner of Emergency Services and Public Protection and the Connecticut Boxing Commission to regulate the sporting events. Some lawmakers say mixed martial arts is too violent and shouldn't be allowed in Connecticut. Dowd is skeptical of that argument "I'm curious if they're NFL fans? NFL has its challenges relative to concussions. MMA is a very well regulated especially at the higher levels. There's a violence factor but there's a violence factor in boxing, and hockey, and football. I could go right down the line. For people who don't like it. Don't come. That being said, we certainly would like to see it at least voted on." MMA fighter, Rafael Cruz agrees. He says he's looking forward to the day he can fight in a competition before a hometown crowd. for WNPR I'm Lucy Nalpathanchil