Bad Day for MMA in NY
February 1, 2011
Getting anything done in Albany is difficult and leads to frustration and efforts to legalize MMA are no exception. As I stated recently during an interview with TapouT Radio, I believed the odds of MMA being legalized in New York State this year would go up dramatically if Governor Cuomo, like Governor Patterson last year, included a provision in his Executive Budget lifting the ban on MMA.
Unfortunately, today we learned that Cuomo would take no such step. Indeed, there is no provision in the 2011-2012 Executive Budget permitting MMA in New York. Moreover, and perhaps more troubling, the Governor’s Executive Budget proposes “[e]liminat[ing] the salary for the Chair of the State Athletic Commission.”
I am not really sure what to make of this proposal, but it seems like a bad sign for all combative sports, not just MMA, and may shed some light on the Governor’s view of the “economics” of these sports in New York in general. I have previously written about why I believe “economics” cannot be the focus of the debate to legalize in New York. As Governor Cuomo’s Executive Budget makes clear, he is tackling a $10 Billion dollar budget deficit and MMA with an estimated $23 million in “economic impact” is simply not compelling.
As you may recall from my earlier post, “Zuffa’s Support of Cuomo — Does It Really Mean Anything?,” the New York Post reported (in fact, Zach Arnold at Fight Opinion first reported) that “Las Vegas firm Zuffa Entertainmen [sic] has pumped $74,600 into Cuomo’s campaign coffers — and hopes the Democrat will use his political muscle to bend the Legislature into approving the controversial cage fights in New York.”
As I reported back then (and as recently as a few weeks ago when the UFC conducted its press conference at Madison Square Garden), Governor Cuomo has never taken a position on the issue of legalization and so I did not read too much into the campaign contribution by Zuffa.
Bottom line, we still do not really know where Governor Cuomo stands on the issue but his failure to include a provision permitting MMA is not a good sign in my view. That said, I do not read the absence of the provision from the budget as an indication that Governor Cuomo would necessarily vote against the bill if it passed through the normal legislative channels, i.e. the Senate and the Assembly. Keep in mind, Governor Cuomo is currently facing a $10 billion deficit and is planning on cutting nearly 10,000 state workers in an effort to cut costs. MMA with an estimated $1.3 million in direct revenue to New York and $23 million in “economic impact” is clearly not going to be a budget priority.
Accordingly, there is still hope this legislative session and we should continue to fight to educate the legislators about MMA as a sport as I have previously written.
Justin Klein is an attorney at Satterlee Stephens Burke & Burke LLP in New York City where he concentrates his practice in commercial litigation and represents clients in the fight industry. He regularly addresses current legal issues that pertain to combat sports, including efforts to legalize MMA in New York, at his Fight Lawyer website. He is a licensed boxing manager with the New York State Athletic Commission as well as the founder and Chairman of the Board of the New York Mixed Martial Arts Initiative, a non-profit organization that gives inner city youth the opportunity to experience the emotional and physical benefits of martial arts training. Justin lives in New York City where he trains in jiu jitsu and boxing.
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