Thursday, January 14, 2016

Why Governor Cuomo Supporting MMA Is a Big Deal


Yesterday, Governor Andrew Cuomo unveiled his budget proposal for 2016, and in it he included a provision for sanctioning both professional and amateur MMA in New York.

In case you were unsure, this is a big deal. A very big deal.

To fully grasp why, you need to understand a little history and a little politics.

Historically, when it comes to the topic of MMA, there hasn't been much overt support for the sport from the executive branch. Back in 2010, Governor David Paterson had the sanctioning of MMA tucked away in his budget proposal, but he was a lame duck governor who'd been elevated to his post after his boss Eliot Spitzer resigned due to scandal, and in case you don't know, lieutenant governors are lieutenant governors for a reason - they generally lack the clout to be the chief executive of the Empire State. That's why, when Governor Paterson's budget proposal hit the legislature, it was carved up pretty quickly, and MMA ended up on the cutting room floor.

Governor Cuomo is no Governor Paterson, though. He's been elected to his post twice (this is his second term), which means he's got popular support and momentum, and - perhaps most importantly - he's in charge in a period of upheaval. Remember: for two decades, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver controlled a huge part of what got done in Albany, and his sudden departure due to corruption charges (and subsequent conviction) has created a vacuum. Sure, the Assembly quickly elected Assemblyman Carl Heastie to the role of Speaker, but in terms of influence and control, no Speaker is going to have what Silver possessed (which is probably a good thing). Therefore, when Governor Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Heastie and Senate leader John Flanagan meet in private to hash out what issues are going to get tackled, the balance of power is going to be much different than when Silver was one of the "three men in a room", and Governor Cuomo is going to have much more say in what gets done.

Does this mean there won't be any Assembly committee hearings on cagefighting nor the floor vote we've all been waiting years for? Not necessarily. The folks in the Assembly can still insist on putting the MMA Bill through the legislative process, although if that happens it will likely be a battle fought (and won) this month and possibly into the next. But given Governor Cuomo's inclusion in his budget proposal, and his new-found influence, an avenue has opened up that could see pro MMA legalized here by March 31. That means a UFC at Madison Square Garden in September, plus Bellators, World Series of Fightings, Ring of Combats and Caged Fury Fighting Championships. More importantly, it means no more unsanctioned amateur MMA shows, and fighters risking their necks in events with no medical personnel or insurance or safety precautions. It means there will finally be sanctioned MMA in New York.

And for that, we owe Governor Cuomo a big "thanks".

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