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.