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?