Professional mixed martial arts is now legally recognized in New York after its state assembly passed a bill on Tuesday that lifted the ban on the sport, which had been in effect for close to two decades.

In a vote 113-25, members of the New York State Assembly decided to finally remove the prohibition on MMA that has been placed by former governor George Pataki in 1997. The move only needed 76 votes in order to be passed.

Opposition to the sport stems from allegations of poor treatment of fighters and other workers in the field of mixed martial arts.

Assemblyman Charles Barron, a critic of MMA, referenced the sport's association with brain trauma and slavery in the United States, while Daniel J. O'Donnell said that it is about "nearly naked, hot men rolling around."

Those who voted for the bill's passing highlighted the potential economic benefits New York could have if MMA is legalized in the state.

"The sport has evolved considerably in the last two decades," Joseph Morelle, the sponsor MMA bill in the state assembly, said.

Despite having their own reservations about the sport, some assembly members decided to support the legalization of the sport.

Assemblyman Michael Benedetto voted in favor of lifting the ban on MMA even though he referred to it is a "nasty" sport.

The removal of the ban on MMA in New York is considered to be a great victory for advocates of the sport, particularly its leading promotion, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC).

While a similar bill had been passed by the New York state senate in each year of the last seven years, none was able to reach the state assembly until Tuesday.

"This has been a long time coming," Lorenzo Fertitta, chief executive of the UFC, said.

The removal of the ban is believed to have been made possible after State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver resigned amid corruption allegations. Silver had been one of the staunchest opponents of the legalization of MMA in New York.

The UFC had planned to have its UFC 198 event held at Madison Square Garden this April. However, the company's request for a preliminary injunction on the state ban was denied by a federal appeals court. UFC instead moved the event to Brazil.

The recent growth of mixed martial arts in popularity over the past few years has led 49 of the 50 states in the country to recognize it as a legal and regulated sport.

Photo: Fort George G. Meade Public Affairs Office | Flickr 

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