NY politician: MMA still doesn't have enough votes to get legalized
NOV 22, 2013 1:36a ET
For years, New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has been public enemy No. 1 when it comes to the reason why MMA is not legal in the state. Well, it's possible it isn't quite that simple.
The fact remains that Silver has not allowed the MMA bill to come to a vote in the Assembly, despite it being passed by the Senate in each of the last four years. But there's a reason: It hasn't gotten enough informal nods from Assembly Democrats, according to Assemblyman Andrew Hevesi.
"The votes weren't there," Hevesi said after a UFC press conference Thursday morning at Madison Square Garden. "We've counted them up. We've been counting them up for years. We're very close. We're closer than we ever have been."
Before a bill can ever make it to the Assembly floor, the Democratic minority takes a preliminary vote and MMA has not gotten enough support. However, Hevesi says if the entire Assembly voted on MMA, it would likely become legal in New York, because enough Republicans would back it. But it has to get past the Democrats - and Silver - first.
"It's one of the principles that we've abided by in the Democratic conference that we're not going to rely on Republican votes to pass bills," Hevesi said. "It sets a bad precedent and puts us in a weaker position not just for this issue, but for every issue."
None of this completely clears Silver, nor the Las Vegas Culinary Union, who always take the brunt of the blame from the UFC. After all, the principles Hevesi references are ones endorsed by Silver. And the union has plenty of pull among Assembly Democrats.
"It comes down to a few gentlemen who have been touched by the Vegas politics and they're playing the game," said UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, a native of Long Island, N.Y. "And they're playing it wrong and it's not fair to a lot of people."
On Wednesday, the UFC unveiled a new independent report that states the legalization of MMA would generate $135 million of economic activity every year for New York. That includes five UFC events annually - three upstate and two in the city or Long Island - along with revenue from other MMA organizations and a large chunk of money from training centers.
"We have not looked at a lot [other] impacts - the merchandises, [training] taking place outside UFC gyms, the power of the brand and the activity of it in a city," said Jamie Springer, whose company, HR&A Advisors, conducted the study.
New York remains the only state that doesn't have MMA legalized. UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta said the UFC was hoping to hold its annual Super Bowl weekend card at Madison Square Garden if the ban was repealed, but the event will be in Newark, N.J., instead.
Hevesi said that some Assembly Democrats have a negative stereotype of MMA and "they don't apply that stereotype to any other sport." He expects the state to have a $1.7 billion deficit in 2014 and ignoring MMA's economic impact would be "governmental policy craziness."
"You don't give money away when you're in a deficit," Hevesi said.
So the onus is really on the Assembly Democrats to support MMA enough to get Silver to bring the vote to the floor - where it's very probable the bill will get passed.
"I think we're getting closer every year," Hevesi said.
Weidman is understandably frustrated with the political BS.
"I'm around politicians all the time, very important politicians," he said. "They tell me there's nothing but extreme support. They're so supportive that I have my own day - July 17, Chris Weidman Day in Nassau County. You know what type of backlash they would get for creating a day for a guy who participates in an illegal sport in the state?"