In forty nine states professional mixed martial arts matches can draw huge crowds - but not in New York. Despite bipartisan support, Democratic Assembly Leader Sheldon Silver won't even let lawmakers vote on legalizing professional MMA events.
"It comes down to a political agenda. Each individual sport within mixed martial arts is legal but when you combine them and get paid, it's illegal," said Tim Boda from Gladius Fights.
Without professional mixed martial arts, Syracuse will host one of the largest amateur MMA events in the country this weekend. Gladius fights will have fifteen matches Saturday night in downtown Syracuse including four title fights.
"There are a little bit of different rules. Amateurs aren't allowed to throw elbows, they can't throw knees to the head," said Boda. "Their rounds are three minutes long compared to five minutes long."
A company working with Gladius conducts background checks to be sure none of the amateur fighters have ever had a professional match. Boda says the skill and safety precautions of modern MMA make it a true sport.
"The judges, the refs, they are very well trained. they know when to stop a contest, when to let it go. especially at the amateur level," said Boda.
Kristy Labbatte does MMA style training just to stay fit, not to fight. She's hoping some lawmakers will change their mind after seeing a successful amateur event.
"I hope that it catches up to where everyone else is at. It's all over the place, it's in schools - people want it to be here," said Labatte.
Boda says Saturday night's amateur event at the Crouse Hinds theater in downtown Syracuse is almost sold out. Boda hopes to still have tickets available that night for purchase at the door. The event starts at 7:00pm and doors will open at 6:00pm.