FOX Deal May Be Just What New York Needs

August 20, 2011

I am certainly not alone in my view that the reported seven (7) year Fox/UFC deal is monumental for the sport of mixed martial arts on a number of levels.  As Kevin Iole points out over at Yahoo!, Dana White is a winner because he has fulfilled a dream of taking the UFC to network television, Fox is a winner because it is tapping into a sport that appeals to the highly coveted 18-34 demographic, but “[n]o one, though, will benefit more than those who have turned the sport into what it is: its fighters.”

Perhaps this is implicit, but let’s not forget about the fans of the sport that will now be exposed to a better, more refined production that will be available, as I understand, almost every day of the week.  Add to this the increased exposure the sport will receive with people who are otherwise not familiar with its intricacies, and I think the fan base should grow exponentially in the coming years.

For me (and many New Yorkers) I believe there is also significance to this deal that should not be overlooked – indeed, it should be capitalized on.  As you may recall, on November 17, 2010, I wrote an article for MMA Payout, A History Lesson (or History’s Lesson) on Mixed Martial Arts in New York, where I traced the history of the sport and the circumstances that ultimately led to the ban on the sport in New York in 1997.  In this article, I pointed out that the key to reversing the ban, in my view, was to increase exposure through, inter alia, the mainstream media to convince the public that this sport is not what it once was.

Regrettably, New York politics is a tricky beast, i.e., even though the votes are there to pass the bill that would legalize mixed martial arts, the political process (if we can call it that) has derailed the bill year-after-year.  This is not dissimilar to the political situation in the late 90s where the votes were there to make the sport illegal but the then Senate leader was preventing a vote on that bill.  Ultimately, the New York Times jumped on the legality of what it deemed barbaric and this and the resulting public reaction led to a complete 180—mixed martial arts went from legal to illegal virtually overnight.

Now (as then) I think the commitment by Fox, a major network based out of New York, to the UFC and mixed martial arts can help shine the light on, and expose, the superficial, strawman arguments of the opposition, e.g., Assemblyman Bob Reilly.  Once the public understands the sport—and New Yorkers understand that the state is losing money to neighboring states because it fails to sanction a sport that is not only legal in 45 states but is on network television, the pressure to put the bill to a vote should overwhelm any purported countervailing forces at play.

While I realize Zuffa tentatively plans on doing the first Fox event in Anaheim in November, New Jersey would be a solid option to show both Governor Cuomo (and New Yorkers) that mixed martial arts is here to stay both in our backyard and on network television.  This could be monumental for New York as the budget process gets underway.

Fight Lawyer

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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