By Zach Arnold | November 25, 2013
The UFC’s charm offensive in New York isn’t working with the politicians or the state’s voters. Writers like Dave Doyle can try to spin Dana White’s rhetoric, backed by Lorenzo Fertitta’s good cop/bad cop routine, as refreshing when it’s anything but. How can you expect New York politicians, who aren’t inclined to be favorable to MMA, to support your sport when you’re trashing your biggest fighters? You don’t need to be a “non-credentialed pseudo-journalist” to figure that out.
Assemblyman Hevesi further clarified that no, the MMA bill hasn't been getting killed by Silver. IT'S BEEN A LACK OF VOTES.
— jim genia (@jim_genia) November 21, 2013
…that there hasn't been at least 76 Assemblymen in favor of MMA each time the Democratic Conference has met. This is both bad and good.
— jim genia (@jim_genia) November 21, 2013
The UFC held a presser in New York City on Thursday to stomp their feet once again about not having MMA legislation in the state of New York. Getting legislation passed in New York is part of their plan for “World Fucking Domination.” A Democratic state assemblyman claims that the reason MMA legislation hasn’t passed in the state is because the members caucusing don’t have enough votes to get it passed on the Assembly floor.
Lorenzo Fertitta: Our sport & UFC has grown, so the impact has grown
With UFC grinding their way through the courts with their lawsuit against the state for regulation, Lorenzo Fertitta is hinting at using a third party to sanction a UFC event in the state of New York. That should tell you pretty much everything you need to know right now about the New York State Athletic Commission. The regulatory body is a disaster and easily one of, if not, the most dangerous “major” commissions in America overseeing combat sports. It’s only rivaled in horrific quality by Florida & Texas. Nevada is dangerously getting close to that category as well.
Some athletic commissions can’t do the job right. New York’s is one of them. MMA legislation sounds great on paper for New York but if the regulators aren’t motivated to do the right thing when it comes to protecting the health & safety of fighters, then perhaps it’s best not to have NYSAC overseeing MMA regulation at the moment.
With all of that said… if the UFC really wants the state of New York to give them full-blown MMA legislation, then we all know what has to be done politically to get the votes. Buying off the politicians with political contributions isn’t cutting it. The quickest route to UFC getting legislation in New York would be to settle their differences with the Culinary Union and that ain’t happening any time soon.
Which leaves Zuffa with two options that they could bring to the table when they meet with New York Democrats to try to convince them to rubber stamp MMA legislation. Both options would provide some discomfort for UFC but would ultimately improve the MMA industry. The question is whether or not UFC is willing to clean up some of the business in order to expand the markets they can run shows in.
Carrot #1. Ditch the company’s pro-testosterone stance & stop lobbying athletic commissions from giving fighters permission slips to use anabolic steroids.
As awareness increases about the steroids situation in Mixed Martial Arts, the turnoff factor is growing. For Fox Sports to be relying so heavily on the first modern semi-major pro-steroids sports league to help carry their new cable channel is astounding. It also means that the steroids issue is, rightfully, ammunition to be used against the UFC in political circles.
Look at how many guys using testosterone (anabolic steroids) are fighting on the top of cards in 2013. Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, Dan Henderson, Frank Mir, Ben Rothwell. We know the four major reasons MMA fighters are using testosterone. The T plague is lousy in MMA. It’s starting to creep into boxing thanks to their dysfunctional relatives in the combat sports world. The UFC not only lobbies athletic commissions on testosterone usage for fighters (e.g. Dana White’s latest public stance on Vitor Belfort), they have allowed testosterone users like Nate Marquardt & Rampage Jackson to use the drug(s) while fighting overseas.
The optics are horribly lousy and completely indefensible for Zuffa. They already had enough good reasons to abandon ship on the anabolic steroids front. If ditching their pro-testosterone policy would help them advance MMA legislation in New York, then they should clena up their act and make the concession.
Carrot #2. Amend the Ali Act to cover both boxing & MMA.
There are many reasons the UFC does not want the Ali Act amended to cover Mixed Martial Arts and I’ve spelled them out.
Zuffa has a lot of political allies in their corner. Their biggest ally is Harry Reid. Harry Reid owes a debt of gratitude to the casino world and to Sig Rogich, the top Nevada political fixer. Rogich also happens to bankroll unofficial UFC stalking horse promotion World Series of Fighting. This political class is a significant reason why Keith Kizer rose to power at the Nevada State Athletic Commission. It’s also why he hasn’t been fired despite the public protesting by the big wigs of combat sports.
It is Rogich & Reid who are the immediate political obstacles for anyone trying to petition the US Senate on amending the Ali Act to cover Mixed Martial Arts. John McCain, who is close to Rogich, is on friendly terms with UFC.
When Reid leaves the Senate, it will more than likely be Chuck Schumer (D – New York) taking over as the Senate leader for the Democrats. Perhaps Dick Durbin could usurp Schumer for this role but highly unlikely at this point.
Schumer is the de facto boss of New York politics on the national level. He’s a guy who can make things happen for the UFC immediately in New York if he put his political weight behind such an effort. The easiest way to get someone like Schumer to lead the charge, besides giving the man political donations, is by giving him some political cover to convince the Sheldon Silvers of the world that the UFC is OK to approve. Outside of settling differences with the Culinary Union, the fastest way UFC could get traction in the New York state houses would involve Harry Reid & Chuck Schumer amending the Ali Act to cover both boxing & Mixed Martial Arts.
I understand that amending the Ali Act to cover MMA would be a “painful” concession for Zuffa. However, let’s consider what would be at stake here. They love their Las Vegas court system when it comes to contractual disputes. They would have to be willing to give up jurisdiction from the state courts to the Federal courts for fighter contracts. It would allow fighters more options to legally challenge UFC contracts that they view as contracts of adhesion. Undoubtedly, Zuffa would have fear about their business model getting busted by top fighters challenging the organization’s contracts in Federal court and exposing dirty laundry.
However, the Ali Act only provides de factor civil relief for fighters who are willing to sue. There is no real teeth to the act when it comes to criminal prosecution. There have been zero criminal prosecutions since the Boxing Act was amended in 2000. In fact, Section 6(e) of the Ali Act gives plenty of bureaucrats immunity from not protecting fighters in the first place.
‘(e) ENFORCEMENT AGAINST FEDERAL TRADE COMMISSION, STATE ATTORNEYS GENERAL, ETC- Nothing in this Act authorizes the enforcement of–
‘(1) any provision of this Act against the Federal Trade Commission, the United States Attorney General, or the chief legal officer of any State for acting or failing to act in an official capacity;
‘(2) subsection (d) of this section against a State or political subdivision of a State, or any agency or instrumentality thereof; or
‘(3) section 10 against a boxer acting in his capacity as a boxer.’.
There are routes to go after such entities in state courts through various PAGA (Private Attorney General Acts) but that goes through the civil court system.
The UFC would definitely face some risk in maintaining their business model by amending the Ali Act to MMA but they would not face criminal risk. The impact of amending the Ali Act to cover MMA would be on the current crop of agents/managers who also act as promoters of fighters they manage. Chinzo Machida comes to mind. Under the Ali Act, that’s a no-no.
If they want to get heavy-hitters in the New York political scene on board, amending the Ali Act to cover MMA would be the biggest concession Zuffa could make to get the votes to pass MMA legislation in the state.
Would UFC be willing to dangle these two carrots (no more testosterone passes & amending the Ali Act) to open up the New York marketplace for Mixed Martial Arts? They may not have the appetite to do so but it may be the only concessions they could make that would get the votes to get legislation passed in the state of New York. Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do in order to achieve “World Fucking Domination.”