Since it’s that time of the year when the struggle to get the sport sanctioned in New York becomes a recurring news item, it makes sense to have a weekly update post. So here it is! This week, there was a lot of talk, both good and bad. Mostly good, though.
• New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo held a press conference on Tuesday to talk about the budget, and ended up commenting extensively on the mixed martial arts. His view? It’s all about the benjamins, baby. Which is to say, he’s not against lifting the pro MMA ban, he just wants to see some detailed economic impact projections first. “I think it should be pursued. I want understand… what are we talking about for the economics of the state? What is the actual economic impact? What’s it do for the state?”
He went on add, “I want to understand the economics for the state. What does it mean? So they could have one match, and one match does what? They have ten matches, they have twenty matches – what is the actual economic impact for the state? What is MMA’s willingness to make a commitment to the state in terms of events? (Ed. note: Governor Cuomo seems to be saying MMA when he means the UFC.) And where would these events be? Now, if they said, ‘We’ll do a series of events in Upstate New York, and we think that an event in Upstate New York has the potential to draw people from the Tri-State area, from New England, bring in people for hotels, [have] economic impact’ – that would be persuasive. I don’t know if that’s the case, or if these are more local venues and etcetera.”
“Do I have an opinion on MMA as a sport? I don’t. Some people say, ‘Well, I just don’t like MMA and I don’t think it should be conducted.’ MMA is conducted, I think it’s being conducted in the overwhelming majority of the states. It’s happening, and I don’t have a feeling towards the sport where I would say MMA shouldn’t happen in this state. I don’t have that feeling. My question is, ‘Why should we do it?’ The obvious answer is it could be an economic impact on the state, and you could generate economic activity. Well, that could be persuasive if it’s true. What does that mean? In one year, what happens different than happens now? Is there one event? Ten events? Where are they? How many people come? Is it just our people who come? Do people come from other states, are there hotels and restaurants, etc.?”
“If they put together a package that said ‘This is what MMA would mean to the State of New York – we’ll do Buffalo, we’ll do Syracuse, we’ll do Rochester. Here’s is a multi-year commitment. We think we’ll bring in X number of visitors and X number of revenue’ – that is something we would seriously consider. It’s about jobs, it’s about economics… That is something we would seriously look at.”
Remember: there are three pieces to the puzzle of getting the MMA ban lifted in New York. The first is the State Senate, and last week they passed their version of the MMA bill. Then there’s the Assembly, who has to pass their version, and when both legislative bodies are in agreement, the governor has to sign off on it. Well, for the first time ever, it seems two pieces of the puzzle are in place. Will the Assembly do their part?
• Zuffa’s response to Governor Cuomo’s statements? They’re thrilled, of course. And you can bet on Tuesday night their lobbyists were putting together detailed economic breakdowns, printing them up, running down to Kinko’s to get them bound, and messengering them over to the governor’s office.
• Mark LaMonica of Newsday penned this excellent piece breaking down Zuffa’s legislative fight thus far for the 2013 session. It’s definitely worth a read. LaMonica was in Albany last week while Lorenzo Fertitta, Ronda Rousey and Chris Weidman were there shaking hands and making their pitch to the Senate.
• Despite all this positive news, the MMA in New York movement still had some detractors voicing their displeasure.
• Regardless of the hubbub over getting pro MMA sanctioned in the state, the amateur MMA scene continues to chug along. This weekend’s offering: Elite Cage Challenge II in Mount Kisco, which is a town just north of New York City.