After the UFC’s lobbying efforts failed to get MMA legalized in New York, Zuffa’s Marc Ratner vowed not to give up so easily. Not long afterwards, Melvina Lathan was named as the new chairwoman for the New York State Athletic Commission, and guess what? She seems friendly to the UFC’s cause, despite being a "boxing purist" according to a recent Newsday article:
"I would hope that New York would keep an open mind," Lathan said. "There’s room for two sports. I’m a boxing purist and I will always be, but I truly believe MMA is a sport all of its own. I think the more people are educated about it, the more they understand it and accept it."
The article goes on to tell the story of Lathan growing up in Philadelphia, where she would peek into a local boxing gym on her way home from school. One day a man opened the door and invited her inside to watch. Turns out the man was Sonny Liston, or so the story goes. Ratner describes Lathan as "a wonderful asset to the sport" and implies that she’ll be the boost they need to get MMA legalized when the Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development Committee revisits it in January. But not everyone is pleased with Lathan’s appointment:
"When I read that there was a new commissioner, the thought of this being part of the strategy entered my mind," said Assemblyman Bob Reilly (D-Newtonville). "Do I have any proof of that? No."
That’s right, the same Bob Reilly who opined that since the state of New York doesn’t allow dog fighting, they definitely shouldn’t allow MMA. So you know, he’s nothing if not a reasonable man and a lover of pure reason. The article describes Reilly as having "ample experience in athletics" all because he was a cross country running coach at Sierra College. Lathan, however, seems to have been won over to MMA’s side the same way many of us probably were (and by us, I mean me), thanks to the exploits of Royce Gracie:
"I remember being on the edge of my seat watching Royce Gracie. He was like a ballerina on stage. He was so graceful, yet he had maneuvers. He was fast and he was smart. I remember watching that, being intrigued at how he could do all the things he did," Lathan said. "I was hooked once I saw that."
Word, Melvina. You and me both.