Wednesday, March 25, 2015

The MMA in New York Battle and Where We Stand Right Now - March 25, 2015 Edition


We're about halfway through the 2015 legislative session, so it's time for an update on where we stand on getting the pro MMA ban lifted in New York.

There are two fronts to the battle to get pro MMA sanctioned in New York State: The UFC’s 2011 lawsuit against the State Attorney General and the lobbying efforts in Albany.

Re: the Lawsuit – The UFC contends the 1997 law banning pro MMA violates their Due Process. Both sides have gathered all the evidence and have filed Motions to Dismiss. Judge Kimba Wood is currently reviewing the arguments and will make a decision in the coming months.

  • A win for the UFC is the judge forcing the State Attorney General to put in writing that it’s okay for the UFC to use a third-party sanctioning organization (like the WKA) to run shows.
  • If the UFC wins, the Athletic Commission will have no oversight over shows and the law itself remains unchanged.

Re: the Lobbying – For any bill to become a law, it must go through both the Senate and the Assembly and get signed by the governor. The lobbying battle will probably be won before the lawsuit (rendering the lawsuit moot).

  • Yesterday the Senate approved their MMA bill by a vote of 47-14. This is the sixth year in a row they’ve done so.
  • Ronda Rousey met with Governor Cuomo this week to secure his vote. He cares about the economic impact MMA will have, and according to her he supports it.
  • The Assembly has their MMA bill sitting in the Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development Committee, but it’s expected they’ll discuss the bill in a private Democratic Conference after the Easter Recess (April 21 or some time after).
  • The Assembly MMA bill has 66 sponsors, plus at least three more Assemblymen have said they’d vote yes on it. For a bill to make it out of the private Democratic Conference, it needs 76 votes out of 100.
  • There are only about six to eight Assemblymembers who are against MMA, but for various political reasons, they were able to convince Sheldon Silver (the former Speaker) to keep the bill stuck in the Conference year after year. However, Silver is out as Speaker thanks to his legal troubles, and his replacement, Carl Heastie, has supported MMA in the past.
  • Using some simple (and very informal) voting math, just seven of the roughly 23 undecided Assemblymembers need to be convinced to vote yes in the conference. Then the bill will go to the floor for a vote, where there are enough Democrats and Republicans in favor of MMA that the bill will surely pass.

The main two arguments opponents of MMA have espoused are that the sport is barbaric and should be kept out of New York, and that it promotes violence toward women.

To counter those arguments, the UFC's message has been that MMA is already here in the form of amateur MMA, and that the events are dangerously unregulated. As for the "women" thing, the UFC has used their ace card - Rousey - to great effect. After all, nothing says "empowerment" more than the UFC's biggest star being an articulate female.

Re: the State Budget - There's a rumor that MMA might be included in the final version of the State Budget. If that were to happen, the whole Assembly/Democratic Conference/floor vote step would be skipped over, and since the budget is due on April 1, pro MMA would be legal as soon as next week. But since MMA has been such a contentious topic in the Assembly for the past few years, it would be a bit weird if this happened. Who knows, though. Stranger things have occurred.

And there you have it. That's where we stand in the battle this red-hot minute.

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