Fight to legalize MMA in New York gets tougher

The fight to legalize MMA in New York hit a snag last week as Assemblyman Bob Reilly released a poll that he commissioned to gauge interest in the sport amongst members of his district.

Out of 468 New York residents that participated in the survey an astounding 67% say they opposed legalizing MMA in NY while only 18% voted in favor of bringing the sport to the third most populated state in the country.

Reilly went on to say that the poll found overwhelming opposition to making MMA legal in New York State. The battle has been waged for some time now and Dana White has gone on record as saying he believes the sport will be legal in NY sometime in 2009. What needs to be kept in mind is that there are over 19 million residents in the state of NY and one should not consider this poll to reflect how the rest of the residents would have voted.

Also to be considered is how the question was asked. The poll did not simply ask whether or not MMA should be allowed in NY state it was accompanied by other information that may have swerved the voter’s thoughts. Here is how the question was posed: “Ultimate fighting, or mixed martial arts, is currently banned in New York State. There is current debate whether ultimate fighting should be permitted statewide. Do you think ultimate fighting matches should be allowed in New York State?”

The opposition in NY state has tried to cloud people’s minds with barbarians and a no holds barred image of MMA. The UFC has countered that by providing an economic impact study, they have developed a web site that will help educate those who aren’t familiar with the sport and the UFC has brought in actual fighters such as Long Island’s Matt Serra to show that the fighters involved are not animals.

The UFC’s Lawrence Epstein, who serves as their general counsel, commented on how important legalizing MMA in the state of New York is to the UFC. He called New York the media center of the world and admitted that holding events in New York will only bring the UFC more attention.

Most lawmakers remain non-committal on the matter and will need more information to base their votes on. Reilly stated that he believes that his district is reflective on how the state would vote as a whole and he is confident that a state wide poll would garner the same results. He is not more opposed to legalizing MMA now than he was back in June when he helped kill the bill when brought in front of the committee.

The man responsible for bringing the bill to the assembly is not event a staunch supporter of MMA. Assemblyman Steven Englebright who is the chair man of the state’s Committee on Tourism, Arts and Sports Development has been hesitant to rally any support for the bill. He describes himself as being cautious and that he doesn’t see the need to rush the measure through.

The UFC was counting on having the bill passed this year so that they could host an event in NY by the end of 2009 but that doesn’t seem likely to happen now. This survey can be considered as a setback for the UFC however they will continue the fight. They are hedging their bets on the state of NY’s rising unemployment and a budget deficit of over $14 billion to help get them support.

11 COMMENTS
  • Lucky7 says:

    I hate when you make a long, well thought out post, and then your network disconnects as its posting, leaving you with nothing but frustration…

    anyway, in short, the UFC (and other organizations) need to mount a “grass roots” campaign to get this passed…i.e., get the people (fans) involved.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  • Angry Mike says:

    This poll comes as no surprise. Most people don’t have a clue about MMA, and most people from NYC don’t have a clue. How else do you explain Senators Clinton and Schumer?

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 2

  • Josh_Kahn says:

    Right on, Angry Mike. Right on.

    People think that forehead cuts are life-threatening because they can be very bloody. We fans have to educate about the safety precautions built into the sport, and about the moral value of the martial arts.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  • wardog says:

    Nice work Bryan! As a fellow New Yorker it would be nice to see MMA events in the state. But I think there is way too much opposition for it to pass anytime soon. The NY Times ran a poll to see if people were in favor of lifting the ban, and some of the responses were hysterical. One person even talked about putting in rules that boxing has installed to prevent head trauma? That is laughable considering that head trauma is more likely to occur in a boxing match were blocking a punch with your forehead is an acceptable strategy. But there is alot of opposition and I think as long as these people are vocal and in a state that has alot of lawyers ready to throw out a law suit as soon as someone gets hurt in a small show, MMA will not be legalized
    http://community.nytimes.com/article/comments/2009/01/21/nyregion/21martial.html

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • wardog says:

    And Angry Mike is wrong. People in NY have a clue, probably way too much for you to understand. There are those like myself who support MMA, but watch people like Corey Hill’s situation and know that had that happened in a small show in NY or even a UFC event there would be a great chance of litigation happening. Also, right now there are underground MMA events held in NYC and no one is stopping them. There are just way too many people here to regulate the sport right now as it is. Plus the Boxing Commission in this state is opposed to allowing MMA in New York, probably because it would hurt them. Afterall, Nevada and California let them in and their boxing events are getting killed in PPV sales. New York can still hold boxing events that would not compete head to head with a UFC event down the strip. There are alot of mitigating factors in this state, including the labor dispute going on with the Fertitta brothers Station Casinos and a labor union representing employees there and in NY, would come into play here. But again I have no clue!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • wardog says:

    And Angry Mike is wrong. People in NY have a clue, probably way too much for you to understand. There are those like myself who support MMA, but watch people like Corey Hill’s situation and know that had that happened in a small show in NY or even a UFC event there would be a great chance of litigation happening. Also, right now there are underground MMA events held in NYC and no one is stopping them. There are just way too many people here to regulate the sport right now as it is. Plus the Boxing Commission in this state is opposed to allowing MMA in New York, probably because it would hurt them. Afterall, Nevada and California let them in and their boxing events are getting killed in PPV sales. New York can still hold boxing events that would not compete head to head with a UFC event down the strip. There are alot of mitigating factors in this state, including the labor dispute going on with the Fertitta brothers Station Casinos and a labor union representing employees there and in NY, would come into play here. But again I have no clue!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • Bryan Levick says:

    Thanks Wardog it looks like you and I will have to make the trip into to Pennsylvania now that they have lifted the ban there. You are dead on there are more than enough educated fans and fighters here in NY but no one is giving them a chance for their voice to be heard. I have met or spoken with guys like Matt Serra, Pete Sell and Phillipe Nover. All of whom are well spoken, educated and respectful people. In fact Nover is a registered nurse at a hospital in Brooklyn, the day I interviewed him he put me on hold to administer an IV to a patient!! The point being as it is time for these legislators to see these fighters for what they really and not what they are perceived to be. The safety of a mixed martial artist is much more controlled than a boxer or even a football player where violent collisions occur all of the time.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • Angry Mike says:

    I don’t get it. Suggesting that illegal, underground fights, boxing commission sabotage, and union politics equates to having a clue about MMA makes no sense to me. Actually, if that’s the state of affairs for MMA in NYC, I’d say that proves my point.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • wardog says:

    Angry Mike it does prove my point. People who “know MMA” want it apporved, but unlike some states there are alot of mitigating circumstances here in NY. Those who support it and want it legalized right at this moment are here. There are those that want to make sure that people are protected under the law (esp. the fighters) are here. People who support the legalization of it but do not like MMA are also in NY. As are the people who oppose it for various reasons. However, unlike some other states who legalized MMA here in NY (NYC=New York City not the state) we have more lawyers is a one mile stretch than most states have. So if there are those who will support legalizing it, but want to make sure that it is done right to avoid future problems it is because people here have a clue. And while other sports have violent collisions, the professional organizations that run them have unions and other rules that protect the participants in the event of an injury. Like I said before a situation like Corey Hill’s or others is not acceptable here (basically I guy fights and gets turned out into the street when he gets injured) and that is one of the many concerns that have come up. Again Angry Mike you may not have the same situations in the state that you are from.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • Bryan Levick says:

    You are dead on Wardog. I am interviewing Matt Serra this week and I am going to get his take and maybe some reccomendations on what he can do to help. I know a lot of it has to do with the boxing promoters who think they have a lot to lose if MMA is legalized here. They are wrong in that regard as the state has more than enough fans who enjoy both combat sports and there are more than enough venues to showcase them as well. To think we are in 2009 and NY is allowing other states to reep the rewards.

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  • Lucky7 says:

    FWIW, this poll was taken in upstate NY (Albany). I think if it were taken in NYC or suburbs, the results would be different.
    I know this defeats the democratic process, but I think only people that are interested in the topic should vote on, and that means people that are against it as well…but if you have no interest in the sport, you should have no vote.

    Also, there are some amateur (legal, not underground) MMA fights in NY, they just don’t call it “MMA”, they call it BJJ or Sambo, or whatever.

    To responsto the boxing promoters, they just need to get on board the MMA train…they should certainly be able to see the profit potential, as the politicians should in taxes. The boxing promoters would also be helpful in legalizing MMA, as they went through all this already!
    Bryan: are you interviewing Matt Serra at one of his gyms? A bunch of my friends train at the East Meadow gym…if you’re interviewing him there, I’d like to stop by!

    Agree or Disagree: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

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