The road to regulation of Mixed Martial Arts in new York state has proven to be a long one, and despite extraordinary efforts by fans and the UFC, it isn't going to happen this year.
New York is the only state or province in North America where professional MMA is illegal. A bill to legalize and regulate MMA in New York has passed the Senate for four consecutive years by large bipartisan majorities – 47-15 this year. However, for a series of undemocratic reasons, right wasn't enough.
In a statement, UFC Chairman and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta said the organization remains committed to pushing for MMA legalization in New York:
“While our disappointment cannot be overstated, our commitment to seeing New York legalize the fastest growing sport in the nation and the world is intact and undeterred. We continue to strongly believe that legalizing and regulating MMA in New York is the right thing for the state economically, the right thing for the millions of fans in New York and the right thing for the safety and benefit of the thousands of professional and amateur MMA athletes across the state.
“This year’s new, absurd, offensive, and completely erroneous charge used to justify the defeat of MMA Legislation was that MMA is anti-woman and leads to domestic violence. This is a deception fabricated by a Las Vegas union that is recklessly and callously trying to use an important societal issue to try and punish the UFC. It isn’t honest and doesn’t work.
“It doesn’t work because our business is not harmed by not being in New York, as much as we would like to be there for our fans and for the arenas, hotels, restaurants, and other businesses which would see substantial economic benefits from the legalization of MMA in New York.
“And it isn’t honest because preventing live professional MMA events in New York does absolutely nothing to address the issues they claim to champion but really exploit. MMA is now legal in all 49 other states. Why has there not been a single protest in any of those states by any group or individual purporting to being fighting for women’s rights? It is a false argument and those making that argument know it.
“The union is exploiting the issue to attack the UFC. Before UFC fired Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, the union and their supporters said in New York that they were ‘appalled’ by his behavior. Yet, when he recently signed with another promoter there was not a peep by the union or its allies.
“This canard hurts women and hurts New York. Continuing to ban MMA in New York does not hurt the UFC. It only highlights the absurdity of the dishonest debate being waged by a small number of people in New York. And New Yorkers pay the price.
“If New York’s leaders really do have a commitment to fanning a growing business climate in the state, they have a heck of a way of showing it. We genuinely feel bad for the hotels, restaurants, gyms, and other businesses that support our effort and have championed this cause. We also feel bad for New York’s arenas – large and small, particularly those upstate – that are struggling and have worked alongside us to pass the legislation. I guess New York’s loss will continue to be New Jersey’s, Massachusetts’, Pennsylvania’s, and Toronto’s gain.
“We want to thank Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle – a true champion – and the more than 60 cosponsors who know passing this bill is the right thing to do. We will continue to work with them to educate the rest of their colleagues.
“This bill has now passed the Senate four years in a row – 47-15 this year – with overwhelming bipartisan majorities. That’s right, strong majorities of Republicans and Democrats in the Senate support this bill and we know if we could only get a vote in the Assembly, we would see strong majorities of Democrats and Republicans supporting the bill there.
“Speaker Silver said legalizing MMA in New York is ‘inevitable’ and we agree. It is discouraging that the Speaker does not yet believe that the bill has garnered the support of his conference, however, we appreciate that he has brought it to conference for the last two years and we are convinced that the third time will be the charm. To paraphrase a famous movie line, we’ll be back.”
Assembly Minority Leader Brian Kolb, R-Canandaigua, also issued a statement:
"The majority's decision to block mixed martial arts legislation despite bipartisan support in both conferences is another case of politics being put ahead of people. Is it any wonder why New Yorkers grow more and more disenfranchised with state government? At a time when we should be doing everything in our power to demonstrate that we listen to constituents, that political dysfunction is a thing of the past, that the interests of a few don't outweigh the interests of the public, the majority inexplicably refused to debate or consider a job-creating measure that would have likely passed in the Assembly. It's a disservice to the legislative process, to the 63 sponsors of the bill, and to the people who elected us."
So now what?
James Corbett said it well.
“Fight one more round. When your feet are so tired that you have to shuffle back to the centre of the ring, fight one more round. When your arms are so tired that you can hardly lift your hands to come on guard, fight one more round. When your nose is bleeding and your eyes are black and you are so tired you wish your opponent would crack you one on the jaw and put you to sleep, fight one more round – remembering that the man who always fights one more round is never whipped.”
Or if you prefer directions succinct, as the Japanese proverb goes, "Fall down seven times, get up eight."
The bill will be introduced next year. And again, if the powers in the state will not put it to vote, it will be introduced again, as many times as necessary, until MMA is finally legal in every state and province in North America.