By Zach Arnold | February 8, 2011
Eddie Goldman has often suggested that MMA advocates who interview New York state assemblyman Bob Reilly should be prepared to actually advance their argument in his presence as opposed to applying the same ‘ol playbook for why Mixed Martial Arts should be regulated in New York.
Well, consider this interview by Larry Pepe of Pro MMA Radio with Assemblyman Reilly to be a step in that direction. I am not going to transcribe the entire interview, but I would encourage you to download the audio file and listen to it. (Starts about 10 minutes into the show.)
A funny moment happened right at the beginning of the interview with Larry was giving the Assemblyman credit for walking into the proverbial lion’s den and was trying his best to be courteous and the Assemblyman curtly responded, “OK,” as if he was ready for a battle.
LARRY PEPE: “(What) is your opposition to (MMA) exactly?”
ASSEMBLYMAN REILLY: “Well, first off, there’s many, you know, Larry as you can I think understand I’ve heard all the pros and cons of Mixed Martial Arts, including you know ‘I just don’t understand.’ I do understand, I just disagree with the advocates on many points and one I hear many times, ‘well, the rules have changed.’ Well, the rules have changed or rules have been instituted, but the rules are not sufficient for the protection of the fighters or for the, um, welfare of our society as far as its violence in the sport and I would only point out how Michael Kirkham was killed recently in South Carolina on the old ground ‘n pound move where he was knocked to the ground, lay on his back, the other fighter came and proceeded to pound him in the head. That is not safer than boxing, another irrational, I believe, um… advocation for Mixed Martial Arts, but that is obviously a very dangerous move. But when a man or woman can take another man or woman, grab them by the head, and knee them in the head, when you can jump on somebody from a standing position as they lie on the ground and pound them in the head when their head is against the floor or the mat, um… this is brutality and danger beyond what’s acceptable. So I don’t find, in some way, I don’t find the rules acceptable today.”
Larry argued that boxing has more deaths per year than MMA, therefore why isn’t the Assemblyman advocating a ban on professional boxing?
ASSEMBLYMAN REILLY: “Well, first of all and I want to not be, um… too contentious when I say this…”
LARRY PEPE: “Sure.”
ASSEMBLYMAN REILLY: “But step back and look at the rationale. To say, ‘well, 10 people a year are killed in boxing and not that many are killed in Mixed Martial Arts, therefore we should sanction Mixed Martial Arts.’ It’s just a horrible, irrational argument. Now, on looking at this sport for the last three years and having the idea of boxing come up, come up many times as ‘it’s less dangerous than boxing’ which I don’t agree with and I have studies that show that, um… the fact is, I grew up being a boxing fan, all right? Muhammad Ali, in fact I go back to Rocky Marciano, but all of our great fighters and I enjoyed it and thought it was a great sport, but today I don’t think professional boxing, as opposed to amateur boxing, professional boxing I don’t think would be legalized in many states today because of the danger to the fighters. So, I just dismiss that argument of ’safer than boxing.’ One, I don’t, you know, boxing has a much longer history, there are many more boxing matches than there are MMA matches. And it’s something, as I say and this is not entirely facetious, more people are killed fishing than in boxing, so let’s eliminate fishing. Well, no. What we do is we put in safety measures. For example, in New York state, we have rules where in certain boats you have to wear a life preserver.”
The Assemblyman then argued that the Unified Rules are the problem and need to be entirely revamped in order for him to find the sport to be acceptable for regulation in New York. Larry compared the violence in boxing and football to violence in MMA.
ASSEMBLYMAN REILLY: “Well, first of all, you’re mixing two things entirely here, all right? Your boxing argument has a good degree of validity. Your football argument, I think, has none because the purpose in Mixed Martial Arts or Ultimate Fighting is to aggressively damage your opponent, according to the rules, all right?”
LARRY PEPE: “What rules? I’m sorry, Assemblyman, but what rules would those be?”
ASSEMBLYMAN REILLY: “The Unified Rules. The five judging criteria in the Unified Rules, one is aggression. Correct?”
LARRY PEPE: “Correct.”
ASSEMBLYMAN REILLY: “And one is the striking force of the blows, correct?”
LARRY PEPE: “Uh, it’s called effective striking, but boxing has that exact same rule.”
ASSEMBLYMAN REILLY: “But boxing has completely different rules for amateur and for professional and in amateur fighting, boxing, the cleanness of the blow but not the force of the blow is what is given points. So, it’s entirely different.”
While this interview aired yesterday on Pro MMA Radio, Frank Shamrock (along with lawyer Justin Klein & Jeff Blatnick) made the trip up to Albany to visit politicians to push for MMA regulation in the state. You can read all about it at The Fight Lawyer blog.