You know, there was a time when we believed that an online petition could change the world. Ah, the naivete of youth. But despite years of UFC lobbying efforts and fan support, MMA is still at square one when it comes to regulation in New York State. In what has become an annual letdown, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver — who has never been an ally of the sport — determined during a closed-door meeting yesterday that a bill seeking to legalize MMA in New York didn’t have enough support to pass. According to a New York Daily News report, the circumstances seemed profoundly shady:
The decision not to bring the bill to the floor helped highlight a growing split between younger members of the Assembly and older lawmakers, insiders said. “[Silver] is still siding with a dwindling number of aging veterans,” one source in the room griped.
The source said after eight people had spoken in favor of legalizing MMA and eight against, Silver called on members who don’t support the bill to raise their hands. About 25 members did. Then he asked for a show of hands of those who support it before saying that it looked even, the source said.
An upstate member who supports the measure complained it didn’t look even to her, the source said…The speaker took another informal vote, with 25 again raising their hands against. The “ayes” seemingly had more than 60, the source said.
Silver then said others had expressed opposition privately and that the votes weren’t there to move the bill.
Afterwards, Silver had the gall to tell the Daily News that he didn’t rule out passage of the bill in the next year or two. (“I think it’s evolving,” he said. “I don’t think two years ago it was a 50-50 proposition.”) Christ, what a farce. Supporters of MMA regulation in the NY Assembly already outnumber detractors by more than 2-1, so it’s clear that the only roadblock here is Silver himself. Whatever the culinary union is paying you, Sheldon, we’ll double it. [Ed. note: Do you accept PotatoBux?]
But there’s another factor at work here — as FightOpinion points out, MMA’s support among New York lawmakers is much higher than the sport’s approval rating among the general public:
Outside of a specific demographic with a profile of a male between the ages of 18-to-34 with questionable employment status, there is no other demographic that exists in New York that backs MMA legislation. The numbers are especially staggering when you consider that women consistently oppose MMA legislation on a 26/60 split. The overall support level of 38% for both men & women has remained consistent for several years now. In fact, the polling data suggests that the more undecided voters hear about MMA legislation in New York, they less they want it…
Instead of looking at trying to win over constituency groups who are not into passing MMA legislation, Zuffa has chosen the traditional top-down, pro-lobbyist, politician-only approach to getting business done in the State Capitol. It has been a costly mistake for the organization, both in wasting their time and especially their money. Instead of building up support the right way by funding grassroots organizations & creating a real, on-the-ground voter demand, Zuffa basically went for a traditional lobbying model that only works when you have voters who support you in the first place and are willing to be active in a big way in contacting their local politicians…
There is time for UFC to alter its political strategy and start making some grassroots in-roads that can match their traditional lobbying efforts. The question is not whether they have the resources to pull it off but rather if they have the will & desire to do so. Right now, Sheldon Silver has the will & desire to keep MMA legislation from passing in New York because his constituents don’t have the will nor the desire to see such legislation get implemented in the first place.
In other words, the UFC must either wait for Silver to retire, or rip up their current lobbying strategy and start over again. Either way, we’re looking at a long fight.