Tamiso: The Final Showdown in Albany?

May 31, 2009

The Final Showdown in Albany?

by Eric Tamiso

Picture the world’s most famous arena, Madison Square Garden. Now picture it hosting a fight with 20,000 screaming fans, pugilists going toe to toe, and Mr. Buffer introducing them. Currently, there are only two ways of seeing this. Either in a boxing match, or in the new UFC video game.

Currently, the battle wages on to regulate the sport of mixed martial arts in the state of New York. Recently, other states such as Indiana and Pennsylvania have accepted the phenomenon of MMA, and have begun to regulate. However, New York has been different. The process has been long and hard for Zuffa and the sport of MMA to get any traction with the powers that be in Albany.

Finally, on June 3rd the New York State Assembly’s Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts, and Sports will vote on bill 2009-B. The bill needs to be approved by a majority of the 21 members, something that surprisingly could be hard. The committee has both its fans and detractors of the sports, most noticeably Bob Reilly (D-Albany and Saratoga) who is outspoken with his feelings against New York welcoming MMA.

In an interview with MMAWeekly.com from January, Reilly gave his thoughts on the sport.

“I think that [MMA] basically is a glorification of violence, but it certainly promotes violence. In itself, I think it’s a very brutal sport that creates, obviously, physical harm to the participants, and I don’t think there’s any other sport who’s purpose is to harm your opponent. But we know that in mixed martial arts, that, in fact, is one of the purposes, said Reilly.

Supporting the debate preceding the vote is Jonathan Bing (D-New York). However, even if the bill is passed in the committee, the road is still long until we see the UFC at MSG. The bill would then go to two separate committees, and then finally to the general assembly for a vote. In Pennsylvania, where regulation of the sport was passed in February, the entire process took 19 months.

Its already almost two years since the topic of New York MMA has been on the UFC’s platter. The last time the company was in the northeast in November 2007, regulation was a topic of discussion by Dana White and Marc Ratner at the post fight press conference. The goal was to have an event in New York in 2008. Now its 2009, and the only way to see MMA at the Garden is by playing THQ’s UFC Undisputed 2009.

New York is the crown jewel of regulation for Ratner and the UFC. With just over a handful of states still not regulating the sport, New York is the juiciest. Besides “the mecca” in Manhattan, there are several other large arenas in metropolitan areas. Just down the street from Matt Serra’s gym is the Nassau Coliseum, home of the New York Islanders. The building holds 16,234 for hockey games. In upstate New York, the HSBC Arena in Buffalo holds 18,690 for hockey, and 19,200 for basketball. And if a promotion wanted to put on a super-show, the Carrier Dome at Syracuse University holds 49,250 for football.

All of these arenas, and other smaller ones throughout the state would generate money for the cash strapped state. To get the ball rolling, 11 of 21 committee members in Albany need to approve the bill this Wednesday.

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