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Matt Serra to NY Legislators: Please Let Me Fight in Front of a Crowd That Likes Me


(Most honest post-fight reaction…eva.)

Strong Island native Matt “The Terra” Serra has penned a piece for Newsday appealing to New York legislators to lift the ban on MMA and regulate events in his home state.  He makes some of the same arguments we’ve all been making/hearing for years – it brings in money, it isn’t that violent, it’s not as bad as boxing, etc. – but Serra is in the unique position of being able to lead with this very personal appeal to emotion:

Last April, I fought Georges St. Pierre in a rematch of the Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight title match. Our sport is banned in New York, and this fight was held in Montreal, St. Pierre’s hometown. The sold-out crowd of 21,000 was less than welcoming – everywhere I went that weekend, I heard jeers and boos. When I eventually lost the match, the cheers for my opponent were deafening.
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Exclusive: Interview with N.Y. State Assemblyman Bob Reilly, Part Two

This is part two of my talk for this SportsIllustrated.com article with New York State Assemblyman Bob Reilly.  If you missed it, you can read part one here.  Once again, I’d like to thank Mr. Reilly for talking with me and explaining his position.  You should also check out the SI article for some rebuttal comments from the UFC’s Marc Ratner.

You say you think MMA would be financially harmful to the state.  How would it harm New York to allow the sport and the UFC to hold events there?

You know, I got the study the UFC did, and based on their studies, they use Buffalo, but I use Albany since they’re similar cities, we have an arena here in Albany that seats about 19,000.  They would say they would bring in about $4 million in the live gate here.  They say the tax revenue would add about half a million to the local economy.  And I say, yes, but at the same time three and a half million would head back to Vegas.  

And here’s where I get a little heady, because just about every casino in this country is surrounded by poverty.  If you go out to Turning Stone in our state, where the people who run it say it’s the only successful economic development we have, but in every case, whether it’s Turning Stone or Atlantic City or Las Vegas, these are sumptuous palaces surrounded by poverty.  And that’s who runs the UFC is these Las Vegas casino owners.  So if they come here the same thing would happen.  You can’t take three and a half million bucks out of the economy and expect it to work.  We made the mistake already of thinking that gambling will save us from this economic recession, but let’s not add to it and think this is the savior.

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Exclusive: Interview with N.Y. State Assemblyman Bob Reilly, Part One

My column this week on SportsIllustrated.com deals with the legislative fight over MMA in New York State.  At the center of this battle, as you probably know, is Assemblyman Bob Reilly, who is a committed opponent of the sport.  Mr. Reilly and I are obviously on different sides of the issue, but he was gracious enough to take the time and explain his position, and for that I thank him.  Part one of our talk is below.  Check back for part two later today, and head on over to SI for UFC VP of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner’s response to Reilly’s arguments against the sport.

You’ve said before that this isn’t your big issue, that you’re really into agriculture.  And yet this is the issue that’s gotten you the most attention.  Do you still feel like you’re reluctant opponent of MMA, because you seem to have embraced it rather eagerly of late.

That’s a tough question to answer.  What happens is, in the state legislature, with the hundreds of laws we vote on and a budget of maybe $120 billion with a $14 billion deficit and a worldwide financial crisis, there are many, many things we look at.  And when I said agriculture is one thing I’m interested in, that’s one thing.  I’m on the sub-committee on agriculture, but I’m also on the Racing and Wagering Committee, I’m on the Corporations Committee, so there are many other things I do besides this. 

But do I think this is an important thing?  Yes.  I think it’s going to be harmful to people.  I think it’s going to be harmful to our society and harmful to our economy.  So it’s one of things I address.  The legalization of MMA in New York State, I would say the only person pushing that or interested in it is Steve Englebright, the sponsor.  There aren’t a lot of other legislators pushing for it.  As I explored it further and became more educated on it, I changed my opinion and become more opposed to it.  

You say it’s going to be harmful to people.  How, specifically, will allowing live events of this sport in your state harm people?

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Exclusive Interview: NY Assemblyman Rob Walker — Our Man in Long Island

Rob Walker New York State Assembly Committee MMA
(Photo courtesy of Newsday.)

Great news, fight fans — we now officially know more New York State Assemblymen who support the regulation of MMA in New York than those who are against it.

A lifelong resident of Long Island, Rob Walker has been a member of the New York State Assembly since 2005 and currently sits on the Assembly Committee for Tourism, Arts, and Sports Development. And like our friend Jonathan Bing, Walker is a co-sponsor of the bill to lift the MMA ban in New York. We called Assemblyman Walker at his office yesterday to discuss the public support for MMA in Long Island and why it’s finally time for New York State to say "yes" to safe, sanctioned competition.

***

CAGEPOTATO.COM: How did you become involved with the Tourism, Arts and Sports Development Committee?
ROB WALKER: Prior to my election, I was the deputy commissioner of parks in the town of Oyster Bay, so it was just logical that when they handed out committee assignments, I’d wind up on the committee that oversees parks, recreation and tourism. I took my role in local government and brought it to the State Legislature.

What initially drew you to the MMA regulation issue?
First and foremost, I actually have some constituents and friends that have been fighting in New Jersey and everywhere else, and they brought it to my attention that we can’t even hold events because it’s not sanctioned in New York State. So that was the first knowledge I had of the sport, and then with the bill that was coming out last year we got more intimately involved and gained some more knowledge of what it’s about. We’re just trying to learn all we can before we take some action.

Why is it a good time to finally lift the ban on MMA in New York?
I think there are a couple reasons. First, the economic advantages are quite apparent. And it’s also what we’re competing against — New York is competing against many states that border it, and we’re losing out. Our residents are going across state lines to compete, and why should New York be one of five or six states that don’t allow participation in MMA? What’s ironic about this bill is that it’s not even demanding that the athletic commission remove the ban; we’re simply giving the athletic commission the ability to go in and see if they want to provide sanctions.

What do you think of Assemblyman Bob Reilly’s arguments that MMA would breed more violence in society, and that it would be economically harmful to New York?

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Exclusive Interview: NY Assemblyman Jonathan Bing Fights for the Cause

Jonathan Bing MMA New York Assemblyman

In our efforts to spread awareness about the current fight to legalize mixed martial arts in New York State, we’ve wasted a lot of energy shaking our fists at the opposition. So let’s all take a deep breath and keep in mind one thing — Assemblyman Bob Reilly is just one man, with one vote. Luckily, there are reasonable men and women on the Assembly Committee for Tourism, Arts and Sports Development, who have a different idea about what’s best for New York and its athletes.

One of those men is Jonathan Bing. Representing New York’s 73rd Assembly District since 2002, Bing is a co-sponsor of the bill to regulate our sport in the Empire State. Though his work in the State Assembly has included everything from organizing free flu shots for seniors and dental exams for children, to helping 9/11 rescue and clean-up workers attain workman’s compensation benefits, he is now at the forefront of the movement to lift NY’s outdated 12-year-old ban on MMA. We recently caught up with Assemblyman Bing to discuss how MMA would help New York, the arguments of its critics, and when MMA could finally come to Madison Square Garden.

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CAGEPOTATO.COM: What initially drew you to the MMA legalization issue?
JONATHAN BING: As a member of the Assembly Tourism Committee, this issue has been before the committee for about a year now, and due to my membership on that committee and my interest in tourism and cultural issues, I became involved.

Had you been a fan of the sport before, or at least aware of it?
I’ve been aware of it. I’m not particularly a fan of the sport, but I’m a fan of increasing revenue to the state of New York, and I’m a fan of high-quality athletics. It’s not really something that I personally would order a pay-per-view for, but I appreciate what it would mean to the state in terms of revenue, and I appreciate the quality of the athletes participating in it.

Why is it a good time to finally lift the ban on MMA in New York?
Well, it’s something that pretty much every state with an athletic commission has approved, so we know it’s been working in other states, and we know how successful it’s been in terms of raising revenue. We’re in a desperate fiscal time right now where we’re looking for any way possible to raise revenue in New York State, and this would provide perhaps millions of dollars if we were to allow these competitions.

Assemblyman Bob Reilly has been very vocal about his opposition to your bill. Have you had any personal discussions with him about it?

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NY Assemblyman Bob Reilly Releases Data From Completely Scientific, Unbiased Poll About ‘Ultimate Fighting’


(Who would answer a phone call from a strange number and take the time to respond to an automated poll question? These people.)

Just because we haven’t heard from New York Assemblyman Bob Reilly lately, it doesn’t mean he hasn’t been hard at work making our lives miserable. On Friday, we passed along a link to a news article about the poll that Reilly had recently commissioned to gauge his district’s support for legalizing MMA. Said Reilly via press release: 

"The poll found overwhelming opposition to making Mixed Martial Arts legal in New York State. Of those surveyed, 67 percent said they opposed making MMA legal in New York. Just 18 percent said they supported making ultimate fighting legal. I believe my district is reflective of the state as a whole and am confident a statewide poll would yield similar results."

Of course, the UFC immediately questioned the validity of the poll — which just 468 people responded to, out of 8,545 people who were harassed via telephone. UFC spokesperson Julie Wood called the results unrepresentative, considering the sole method of polling was through telephone, and that the poll question itself showed an inherent bias.

CagePotato reader Jeb R. sent us the official summary of Reilly’s poll — which includes the original poll question, and can be seen after the jump in its entirety — along with this note:

[Reilly] also had some colorful comments to local reporters at a press conference in Albany, NY today. When asked about the money this would bring in, he sarcastically said that bringing prostitution to New York would bring in revenue, too.

Potato Nation, this is the unbelievable level of ignorance we’re dealing with. But the fight is far from over. Please sign our "Lift the Ban on MMA in New York" petition if you haven’t already, and direct your friends to do the same. Another vote on the bill that would legalize MMA in New York State is expected to be held sometime this year.

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Vote to Legalize MMA in New York Postponed

Mandy Moore UFC
(Think of it this way, New York legislators: Every time you stall on the vote, you’re robbing Mandy Moore of her joy.)
 
MMA Mania passes along a bit of bad news regarding the fight to lift the ban on MMA in New York State:

MMA is currently unregulated in New York, and appeared to be on the verge of being sanctioned in 2008, but some eleventh-hour concerns from uneducated members of the Assembly Committee on Tourism, Arts and Sports Development scuttled its passage.
 
Another session on the matter began in the state capital on January 7 and was expected to reconvene on February 11.
 
No longer.
 
“Budget issues” are expected to monopolize the entire schedule for the immediate future, effectively pushing non-critical items (like MMA sanctioning) to the legislative back burner…[W]ith an obstacle as broad and sweeping as “Budget issues,” who can even say when that vote will be.

If there’s a bright side to this unfortunate setback, it’s that it gives the MMA community more time to spread awareness of this issue to the uninformed. Please do your part by signing our "Lift the Ban on MMA in New York" petition (if you haven’t already), and sending the link to every MMA fan and New Yorker that you know. I’m sure we can get this thing to over 10,000 signatures before it’s time to present it to New York’s Assembly Committee on Tourism, Arts and Sports Development. Thanks so much, everybody…

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Got Five Seconds? Help CagePotato Lift the MMA Ban in New York!

Madison Square Garden New York
(Madison Square Garden — the Promised Land.)

Hey Potato Nation. As you might be aware, MMA competition has been banned in New York since 1997, during the height of the "human cockfighting" scare. Though 37 states including California, Texas, Florida, and Illinois, have passed laws regulating mixed martial arts, the Empire State is still officially opposed to the sport — and old, crusty, and illogical forces are at work to keep it that way.

But rather than complaining about the situation, we’re going to do something about it. That’s why we’re asking you to take a moment out of your day, go to our online petition, read it (that part’s optional), and sign it. The petition is directed at the New York Assembly Committee on Tourism, Arts & Sports Development, who sunk last year’s effort to get MMA sanctioned in New York, and will be voting again on the issue in the very near future. Our hope is that opponents of MMA in New York’s State Legislature will get a little more education on the issue, and realize that public opinion — which every politician lives and dies by — is firmly on the side of our sport.

We know what kind of emotion-driven, infuriatingly uninformed arguments we’re up against. We know that having to compete out-of-state affects Matt Serra’s performance. And I think we all agree that MMA should be legal everywhere in the country, particularly in a major city like New York. (I’m just saying, it would be nice to take a subway to a UFC event rather than an airplane.) Please spread the word about our petition to any MMA fans you know, and as always, keep hope alive.

CLICK HERE TO SIGN THE PETITION!

(And if you have a Digg account, please show some love.)

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