With Assembly Speaker Indicted, NY Fighter Believes ‘This Is the Year’ for MMA Legalization

FAIRFAX, VA—Long Island mixed-martial-artist Al Iaquinta tells Breitbart Sports that he thinks 2015 marks the year that his state finally legalizes his sport.

“I have somewhat of an understanding of what’s going on,” the UFC lightweight confesses. “But I leave the politics to the politicians and the lawyers. I’ll do the fighting.”

He does the fighting Saturday afternoon on the UFC’s card on Fox Sports 1. Boasting wins over Joe Lauzon, Ross Pearson, and Ryan Couture, Iaquinta looks to continue his rise up the lightweight ranks with a victory over YouTube-tough-guy-turned-world-ranked-fighter Jorge Masvidal.

Some of the world’s best mixed-martial artists, including Rashad Evans, Jon Jones, and Iaquinta training partner Chris Weidman, hail from New York but have never competed there professionally.

“It’s sad,” undefeated middleweight champion Weidman told Breitbart Sports last year. “I have a lot of pride being from New York, born and raised there–still train there. It’s where I raise my kids. For me not being able to compete and give my fans the show they want to see is heartbreaking. I want it to get it legalized as fast as possible.”

Iaquinta says that competing in his home state remains one of his dreams as a fighter.

“Nassau Coliseum would be great,” the 11-3 lightweight confesses. “It’s five minutes away from my house. Madison Square Garden is the center of the sports world right there. So, either one would be just a dream come true.”

Federal Judge Kimba Wood, briefly a Bill Clinton nominee for attorney general early in his presidency, delivered a setback to those dreams earlier this week by dismissing a lawsuit brought by mixed-martial-arts outfits on what the UFC describes as a “technicality.” If further litigation doesn’t bear fruit, the legislative option looks more promising than ever. The feds earlier this year indicted Sheldon Silver, the longtime speaker of the New York state assembly who has blocked past efforts to sanction and regulate MMA, on corruption charges. Several UFC fighters, including Urijah Faber, have described the Empire State’s ban as corrupt, claiming that a Nevada union grievance against the promotion’s owners fueled the effort to block recognition and regulation.

“This is the year,” Iaquinta maintains. “I’m keeping my fingers crossed. But if you would have asked me the same question five years ago I probably would have said, ‘This is the year.’”