Fans of mixed martial arts in the New York region have been fixated on when New York will sanction MMA events within the state.
The day will come, UFC president Dana White has been preaching for years. White was hopeful that the New York State Legislature would put bill A2009C up for vote before the politicians left Albany. Once this session ends, they are not due back for a full session until January 2010, so time was of the essence.
But word came to TSS from an Albany source that the bill didn’t make it out of the Assembly and to the Senate floor for a vote, and thus, will not be sanctioned in NY before next year.
White has been pressing to get New York, which banned the sport back in 1997, when a significant stigma was attached to the practice then known as “ultimate fighting” or “extreme fighting,” to re-invite MMA back into the fold. He thought he had a clear path to a bill’s passage when pro MMA politician Gov. Elliot Spitzer took the reins in 2006.
But Spitzer’s March 2008 fall, from a sex scandal, pushed back the cause.
White and UFC owners Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta understood, as best they could, that the culture of the state legislature would mean that intense lobbying would have to be undertaken, in order to educate politicians wary of any PR missteps about a sport derided as “cockfighting” by Sen. John McCain. They hired amiable, cool-headed Marc Ratner, formerly of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, to help fills in knowledge and perception gaps among those on the fence. Ratner couldn’t change the minds of old school pols like Assemblyman Bob Reilly, who played up the most negative traits of the sport and all associated with it. He referred to it as “ultimate fighting,” though that term has been passé for several years, and collected the most incendiary and lurid quotes about the sport in a packet, which he distributed to his colleagues. Rosie O'Donnell's brother, Assemblyman Daniel O'Donnell, also spoke up versus MMA in a Tourism and a Codes Committee meeting, but the bill passed out of both committees nevertheless. NYS Athletic Commission chair Melvina Lathan emerged as a potent ally for those looking to pass the pro MMA bill, as she deftly explained to the uninitiated and/or dubious in Albany that the sport has rules, and would be stringently regulated. But she couldn't keep the legislature from deteriorating into a pathetic power grab featuring bratty grownups acting like whiny two-year olds, as they schemed and slithered to hold on to, and grow their power bases.
Despite their distaste for the sport, the bill still had plenty of backers, and a clear shot to passage. But a massive roadblock erupted on June 8; two Senate Democrats jumped ship to the Republican side of the aisle, giving the GOP the majority edge.
The Dems seethed, and while allegiances were sorted out, the legislature ground to a halt. With the legislative session slated to end Monday, June 22, and the legislature not slated to re-convene until January, the prospects of passage looked bleak. But the Governor threatened to keep the Senate after school, so to speak, and elongate their session, so it was hoped that the bill could get rammed through. But too many other bills were deemed more important, and the Assemblymen and women left Monday without getting closure on MMA.
“All the chaos in the Senate bogged down the Assembly too,” explained our source in Albany. “The important thing is the roadwork was laid this session, next session it’s just a matter of driving it home.”
Wait til next year, NY MMA fans.
Or go to Jersey for your UFC fix.