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By Zach Arnold | May 8, 2012
This won’t win over me with many fans, but sometimes you have to call it like you see it. I remained amazed at the reaction of online MMA fans in regards to why New York Assembly boss Sheldon Silver won’t pass MMA legislation.
Every year, we get the same circus online from fans who one minute love NY politicians and the next minute are cursing them out for being grizzled senior citizens who have no perspective on what their constituents want because they spend their lives in smoke-filled rooms (or something to that effect).
Yesterday proved to be a perfect example when Sheldon Silver tabled MMA legislation in 2012. Maybe it’ll happen in another year, junior.
Or maybe not. But you know why this year wasn’t the time to bank on MMA legislation passing in New York?
2012 is a terrible year to try to get Democratic politicians to go against the wishes on the unions. Wrong year 2 try.
You don’t say. And, of course, UFC reacted with the kind of natural political tone-deafness that has utterly defined their clueless approach to winning over hearts & minds in New York.
#UFC VP Marc Ratner on NYS Assembly decision not to take up MMA bil this year: ‘Not to get a vote is un-American.”
A part of you almost feels for the boys in Las Vegas. On second thought… not really.
What’s happening in New York is a pretty simple matter. However, it requires fans to strip out the emotion and look at the political logic involved for Sheldon Silver. This is not the year to go against unions.
(It’s why the battle over AB2100 in California with pro-AB2100 proponents vs. the UFC & CSAC is so fascinating due to the internecine nature of the Democratic Party battle.)
In future years, maybe MMA legislation gets passed. Maybe. But what if it doesn’t? There’s no reason to believe that if Sheldon Silver continued killing off potential MMA legislation that he would somehow get hurt politically for it. Why? Because the approval numbers are in his favor.
Last month, we nicely warned you about the importance of the latest Siena Poll results about how much support there is for MMA legislation amongst the general New York state populace. And, once again, NY MMA legislation boosters continued burying their heads in the sand by ignoring the polling data that Sheldon Silver is looking at.
Outside of a specific demographic with a profile of a male between the ages of 18-to-34 with questionable employment status, there is no other demographic that exists in New York that backs MMA legislation. The numbers are especially staggering when you consider that women consistently oppose MMA legislation on a 26/60 split. The overall support level of 38% for both men & women has remained consistent for several years now. In fact, the polling data suggests that the more undecided voters hear about MMA legislation in New York, they less they want it.
I don’t care who you are, a consistent year-in, year-out 38% approval rate for any piece of legislation spells doom and rightfully so. However, when this inconvenient truth is mentioned to boosters, look out. All of a sudden, the constituents that the backers want to win over so bad suddenly become evil people who are ignorant, stupid, and don’t deserve MMA shows.
“Fine, screw off!”
This attitude has permeated in the press throughout the yearly attempts of MMA legislation in New York. MMA is a sport I truly love, but I also recognize that it’s not for everyone and you can’t force people to eat the proverbial dog food if they don’t want to eat it. It doesn’t make them bad human beings.
Instead of looking at trying to win over constituency groups who are not into passing MMA legislation, Zuffa has chosen the traditional top-down, pro-lobbyist, politician-only approach to getting business done in the State Capitol. It has been a costly mistake for the organization, both in wasting their time and especially their money. Instead of building up support the right way by funding grassroots organizations & creating a real, on-the-ground voter demand, Zuffa basically went for a traditional lobbying model that only works when you have voters who support you in the first place and are willing to be active in a big way in contacting their local politicians.
It also hasn’t helped that Zuffa has vastly overrated its charm offensive strategy. Their quasi PR circuit tour in both New York & California based around pushing Ronda Rousey resulted in zero political success. It may have played well with local newspaper writers who were happy to have someone to do an easy profile article on but it meant nothing in actually moving the ball forward in regards to MMA legislation or in terms of getting an Assembly committee to vote against AB2100 amendments, despite the fact that said committee members admitted they hadn’t even read the new amendments before voting yea or nay.
There is time for UFC to alter its political strategy and start making some grassroots in-roads that can match their traditional lobbying efforts. The question is not whether they have the resources to pull it off but rather if they have the will & desire to do so. Right now, Sheldon Silver has the will & desire to keep MMA legislation from passing in New York because his constituents don’t have the will nor the desire to see such legislation get implemented in the first place.
Don’t put the cart before the horse.
Speaking of putting the cart before the horse, here’s Dana White proclaiming to The Wall Street Journal that the UFC is bigger than the NFL globally and ‘neck-and-neck with soccer.’
There’s a fine line between grandiosity and delusion, a line which can be easily crossed.