In today’s installment of “Geez, What is New York’s Problem?”, UFC boss Dana White debates with the MMA movement’s most vocal opponent, Assemblyman Bob Reilly, while the State Senate passes one half of the bill to get the sport sanctioned. Meanwhile, as the Assembly fritters away the time on their end, public optimism must be tempered with realism, lest you face crushing depression.
Dana White Debates
Last week, White appeared on Forbes Sports Money, discussing both the success of the UFC’s latest venture into Canada and the stumbling blocks the sport has run into in regards to getting MMA sanctioned in the State of New York. As you may recall from earlier posts, New York is the last big holdout in terms of legalizing professional MMA, and in recent years bills to bring the Octagon (and its ilk) into Madison Square Garden (and its ilk) have one way or another died in the hollowed halls of the legislature.
-“I know how big it will be in the State of New York,” said White, immediately throwing out the ‘economic impact card’. “Not just New York City itself, but for the State of New York.” He added: “Believe me, when we roll into a town, every local business can’t wait until we come back.”
-White went on to cite the recent Rogers Centre 55,000-seat sellout crowd in Toronto, with the implication being that all that yummy stimulus pie could be New York’s for the taking.
-However, when asked if he knew why the New York MMA bills have stumbled, he wasted no time pointing fingers at perceived opposition from the Culinary Union. “Why, of all people, would the Culinary Union spend millions of dollars of their members’ dues to keep the UFC out of the State of New York?” White, of course, had the answer. “My partners, the Fertitta brothers, have the largest non-union gaming company in the United States, and the union is fighting the UFC from coming here… because they’re upset the Fertitta’s hotels are not union casinos.”
To rebut White’s assertions, Forbes Sports Money put a microphone in front of Assemblyman Bob Reilly, who for years has been MMA’s biggest detractor in the state.
-“I believe it’s a violent sport, and violence begets violence,” said Reilly. “I think it will cost more money for the State than it will bring in.”
-Reilly scoffed at the idea that unions are keeping the MMA bills from bearing fruit. “The unions in New York have virtually nothing to do with the unions in Nevada.” (Is he right? Pete Lampasona thinks so.)
-He also felt the clock was ticking on sanctioned MMA throughout the country. “It’s my feeling that what will happen – and it’s already happing – is it will gradually start to shift and we’ll see this for with it is. And more states that legalize it will make it illegal.” Added the man who’s made no bones about his desire to ban boxing as well: “People are going to recognize the sport for what it is and the damage it does to fighters… If we tried to legalize professional boxing today, we couldn’t do it.”
The Wise Old Senate
There are three components in getting MMA sanctioned in New York State: a bill must pass through the Senate, a bill must pass through the Assembly, and the Governor must sign the final product. Today, the Senate did their part. After a brief debate on the usual issues (safety, money, White’s blatant disregard for hairstyles), the legislative body voted – and passed – their version on the MMA bill by a margin of 42-18, leaving the ball in the Assembly’s court to get whacked. Or not.
-“With every passing month, our sport gets more and more popular around the country and in New York,” said UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta in a Global Strategy Group (Zuffa’s lobbyist group) release. “We want to thank the State Senate, and we’re confident that when the Assembly members take an objective look at our safety record, our popularity with their constituents, and the economic benefits and jobs we would bring to the State, they will take the same action and UFC fans will finally be able to see live UFC events in their home state.”
The “And More…”
Before you get excited and start booking your flight to JFK International Airport for a UFC in the Big Apple, consider this: the Assembly’s half of the MMA bill has been stuck in committee for most of the session, and there are only twelve days left for the Assembly to act on it. It has to pass through that committee and two more, then hit the floor for a vote. If it doesn’t happen before those twelve days have expired, it’s back to square one again. And we’ve had our hopes dashed and been sent to square one repeatedly for a few years now. Trust me, it sucks.