You may recall that some weeks ago the UFC’s push to get MMA legalized in the state of New York involved an aggressive PR campaign and the help of lobbyists in the state capitol. Now it seems the UFC is pursuing that same strategy on a national level, enlisting the services of Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to help their cause in Washington D.C.:
Brownstein lobbyists don’t face any big fights on Capitol Hill. They say their mission is to let lawmakers know how far the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA), which combines karate, jiu-jitsu, boxing, kickboxing, wrestling and other forms of martial arts, has come.
“The sport that McCain objected to many years ago is really a sport that doesn’t exist anymore,” said Lawrence Epstein, general counsel for the UFC.”
“UFC is at the point where they are one of the fastest-growing sports leagues, and we want to make sure members of Congress are aware of the changes MMA has undergone,” said Makan Delrahim, a former top Justice Department official who is now a lobbyist at Brownstein Hyatt.
At first it seems odd to hire lobbyists just to make sure Congress is “aware of the changes”, and not to try and effect some type of change. After all, what’s the goal? If they aren’t trying to get a law passed or stop a law from being passed, why spend money on lobbyists? And then you read this:
The work is mostly educational, but Brownstein is also keeping an eye on the Professional Boxing Amendments Act of 2007, introduced by McCain last year.
The boxing bill would establish a U.S. Boxing Commission with the Commerce Department to oversee the sport. Boxing is currently regulated by state and tribal boxing commissions.
The U.S. commission would be charged with protecting the safety and interests of boxers and would regulate boxing contracts, according to a Congressional Budget Office summary.
“Sometimes those types of laws can become vehicles for other things, affecting other sports,” Delrahim said.
“Boxing has a whole different story and certain laws may have been appropriate, but it is a whole different operation for MMA; it wouldn’t make sense to apply the same rules.”
And there you go. The UFC is concerned that if MMA gets lumped in with boxing they may also get stung by laws regulating fighter contracts. Such laws, like the Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act of 2000, attempt to restrict certain types of fighter contracts, like say the type that requires him to sign away future promotional rights (as in, his likeness for the UFC video game?) in order to fight. You can see why the UFC might not like that. Their contracts aren’t exactly known for favoring the interests of the fighters.
They might feel they need to get proactive about it if they think McCain could be sitting in the big chair soon. The last thing the UFC wants is the government nosing around in their fighter contracts, asking why Chuck Liddell‘s contract has a stipulation regarding how many chicks he’s allowed to bang during post-fight radio interviews. It’s two, by the way.
(Props: MMA Payout)