Well, the MMA legalization bill in New York just passed through yet another hoop today. A04146A was approved by a vote of 17-1 by the State Assembly’s Codes Committee. Insiders estimate that’s as close as it will get to becoming a law, however, since the next vote will be chaired by vehement MMA opposer, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver in the Ways & Means Committee.
Still, the UFC is pulling out all the stops in a last ditch effort to persuade Assembly voters to jump on the MMA bandwagon. UFC vice president of regulatory affairs, Marc Ratner is in New York meeting with legislators in an attempt to educate those who might be sitting on the fence due to safety concerns, that MMA’s safeguards are as good if not better than other mainstream sports.
UFC president Dana White penned the following open letter to New York residents that was featured in a full page of today’s New York Daily News:
“If you’ve paid any attention to mixed martial arts over the past decade, you know the sport has exploded. It has the highest pay-per-view numbers of any sporting event, is broadcast on numerous cable, satellite and network television stations, enjoys mainstream sponsorships and has a large and diverse fan base. It is sanctioned in 45 of 48 U.S. states that have athletic commissions and across Canada and Australia.
Unfortunately, MMA fans in New York are forced to enjoy the sport from afar. Here in New York, MMA is totally banned.
It’s long past time to overturn that prohibition. It’s a safe and respectable sport that’s every bit as legitimate as boxing or professional football.
I won’t pretend to be objective. I run the Ultimate Fighting Championship, the single most popular MMA promotion company. While I think that our fans here in New York and the city would profit immensely from legalization, it will also certainly affect my bottom line.
But the benefits go far beyond my business. Bringing MMA to New York would make public policy sense in a city and state that need jobs and tax revenue badly.
I understand some people think no amount of economic activity is worth selling the state’s soul – and some people insist that MMA is simply too brutal to allow. But MMA is completely different from the spectacle New York legislators banned back in the 1990s.
When MMA first came to the United States, it was modeled after a Brazilian sport known as vale tudo – “anything goes.” Its early days were marked by a distinct lack of strong regulation – no weight classes, no time limits and no rules.
In 2001, MMA reinvented itself. The Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts were written and adopted by the leading regulatory bodies working closely with promoters, including the UFC. The rules include provisions for weight classes, rounds and time limits. Dangerous maneuvers are totally outlawed. In the UFC, we have multiple ringside doctors at every fight, mandatory pre- and post-fight MRIs, comprehensive drug testing and a competitive atmosphere.
If a fighter gets a concussion, he is forced to sit out of matches and training for a mandatory period determined by the regulatory body overseeing the event. No other professional sport has such strict concussion rules.
All of those changes have produced two incredibly positive results: First, no athlete has suffered a serious injury in the history of UFC – nothing beyond a broken bone. Second, the sport has gained worldwide popularity and firmly established itself as the fastest-growing sport in the country.
At this point, it’s very odd that New York would allow and even celebrate a sport like football, in which people have experienced serious and lasting physical injuries, and cling to the fiction that MMA is legalized assault.
How successful would the sport be here? We got a taste a few weeks ago. A fight at the Rogers Centre in Toronto brought in ticket sales at the gate of more than $12 million – the largest for any event ever held at the arena. The sellout crowd of more than 55,000 – bigger than when an NFL game was held there – poured in to the city early and stayed late, purchasing arena concessions, staying in hotel rooms, dining at restaurants and taking taxis.
I am positive that an event in New York would have the same kind of success. While Madison Square Garden is obviously a pinnacle for any sport, we have a large fan base in cities like Buffalo, Syracuse, Rochester and Albany, all of which could use the economic lift.
We commissioned an economic impact study to demonstrate how much revenue one of our events would generate for the State of New York. The study, by HR & A, found that sanctioning MMA in New York City would generate more than $23 million in net new economic activity. In Buffalo, an event would generate $5.2 million in economic activity.
Those figures assume only two UFC events, and we estimate we could do as many as three per year in New York State.
Little wonder momentum is growing to overturn the ban. The state Senate recently voted overwhelmingly to sanction mixed martial arts and the Assembly’s tourism committee followed suit; now it’s time to allow a full Assembly vote.
The sports capital of the world deserves access to one of the world’s fastest-growing sports, one that will bring money and jobs to state and local businesses.”
Lets hope this push can finally tip the scales in our favor.
We urge all New York residents to contact their State Representatives to voice your opinion about MMA in New York and to let them know that your vote in the next election will be influenced by how they vote on this bill.
A list of all of the Assembly members and their email addresses can be found HERE.