MMA is legal in New York. After years and years of waiting, the sport is finally permitted in the state of New York as the New York Assembly voted today to legalize MMA with the governor’s signature an expected formality. The UFC has already talked of running Madison Square Garden in November.
UFC parent company, Zuffa, likely spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying fees to get to this point. The company had simultaneously been attempting to legalize the sport through the courts, arguing that the law was in violation of the New York State Constitution. Those attempts had yet to be successful and are obviously no longer needed.
While MMA had been prohibited in other states, efforts to overturn a mid-90s draconian law making the sport illegal in New York were more complicated. It wasn’t a matter of lobbying an athletic commission but rather of overturning a law – a far more complicated process.
Said process was also complicated by outside sources. All of them stupid.
The road towards making the UFC legal in New York
First was pressure applied to NY Democratic politicians by the union representing culinary workers. Zuffa is one of the rare casinos that uses non-union labor, causing an obvious rift between Zuffa and the Culinary Workers Union. Said Union used its considerable influence to pressure New York Democrats into not passing the law, all in an effort to indirectly put pressure on Zuffa to hire union workers. Yes, MMA wasn’t allowed in New York because the Fertitta brothers didn’t have unionized casino workers in Las Vegas. Welcome to the world of politics.
(Incidentally, MMA was actually allowed so long as it was amateurs fighting. MMA: too dangerous for pros but not amateurs.)
Further acting as a roadblock was the former head of the New York Assembly, Sheldon Silver. As the head of the Assembly, he used his power to simply not call the proposed legislation to legalize MMA to a vote.
His reasons for doing so were two-fold: 1. He still felt union pressure; 2. Even though there were enough votes to pass the law, there was a desire for there to be enough Democrat only votes for it to pass. In other words, they didn’t want to give the Assembly Republicans a chance to claim even a part of the victory. Politics.
Last November, Silver was convicted on multiple counts of basically being a politician: taking bribes, looking the other way for friends, etc… Say it with me: politics. With him gone, the road to legalization appeared smoother and it was as MMA is now legal in New York.
THE UFC AT MSG
While the UFC has run in nearby New Jersey with success – an area that essentially covers the New York City market (both New York football teams play in Jersey), there is a specialness to New York and Madison Square Garden in particular. Simply running a show at MSG will instantly attract more media attention that any show in UFC history.
Expect the UFC debut at MSG to be perhaps the biggest show in company history. There have been rumors that Brock Lesnar’s WWE contract permits him to fight at MSG against Frank Mir and Ronda Rousey’s return has always been scheduled for November as is.
Even if neither appears, be it Conor McGregor or Jon Jones, the UFC will go out of its way to ensure the show is a success. Georges St. Pierre has been in the news as returning soon. GSP vs McGregor, anyone?
The UFC is coming to New York
Legalization didn’t happen without a few last ditch efforts from ill-informed politicians. Domestic violence was cited repeatedly, based on the theory that, uh, watching fighting makes a man more likely to beat his wife? Who knows.
CTE was also discussed and while there may be some validity to that argument, a quick look at the agenda shows no bill proposed to outlaw football, hockey, or boxing.
And so today ends an odd period in the sport’s history. MMA is coming to the biggest city in America. If the saying “if you can make it in New York you can make it anywhere” is true then the UFC has made it.