"It’s up to you, New York, New York.”
Most New Yorkers know the words to the theme song originally performed by Liza Minnelli from Martin Scorcese’s film, “New York, New York,” written by composer John Kander and lyricist Fredd Elb, and made famous by the version sung by the late crooner Frank Sinatra.
However, New Yorkers will not know about the UFC holding an event in New York unless legislation passes through the State Assembly this year.
The State Assembly being the final hurdle, the bill killer if you will. The Assembly is as effective at killing the bill to legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York as is at raining down vicious elbows.
The UFC light heavyweight champion was in Madison Square Garden last week, home to some of the greatest fights in history, to promote his fight in New Jersey. A common occurrence when the UFC heads to New Jersey, and a huge tease for the fans in New York.
New Yorkers were more than teased when news broke in February in the on-going court battle between Zuffa and New York State, that a loophole did in fact exist, allowing the UFC, or any professional MMA promotion, to hold an event in the Empire State, without the sport becoming legal.
During a media day to promote UFC 159 at Madison Square Garden last week, Dana White killed any hope of that happening, saying that would not be an avenue the UFC would explore.
“We’d never do anything sneaky,” White said. “We’re either going to get sanctioned here or we're not. We will only do it if the government…you know.”
White, at one point said he’s “over it” in regards to talking about MMA becoming legal in New York.
He isn’t alone. Think of all the fans, the grass roots leaders like NY MMA Now—who fight the good fight—and host rallies to push for the cause. Or the fans—who take off from work to come to a rally, or a UFC press conference, or events like the Metro PCS-sponsored fan day in Manhattan last week.
For the last four years, UFC and MMA fans in New York have been feverishly waiting for Christmas morning, only to find out Santa won’t be coming, as the bill died in Assembly, failing to get to the Assembly floor for a vote.
White acknowledging the UFC won’t attempt to hold an event using the loophole, combined with an uncertain timetable for the ongoing court case between Zuffa and New York State, means the fate of New Yorkers seeing the UFC come to their hometown state will now return to rest in the hands of the government.
Specifically the New York State Assembly, since once again the bill to legalize MMA in New York flew through the New York Senate with a 47-14 vote.
“It’s just ridiculous,” White explained. “We get more votes (In the Senate) than we got last year. It’s just to the point now where it’s just absolutely ridiculous.”
White scoffed at the idea in the Crain’s NY article suggesting that the MMA is not yet legal in NY because the UFC has become a “useful pot” in regards to the lobbying and PR money they have doled out in the last few years. “Trust me, that’s not the reason it’s being held up,” he said, before bringing up once again who he thinks is the main reason.
“Guys, it’s the Culinary Union,” White exclaimed. “The culinary union bused a bunch of people up to Albany last week to try to protest up there. It’s 100 percent the Las Vegas Culinary Union. “It’s being held up because the Las Vegas Culinary Union is that powerful in New York.”
UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta was in Albany a day prior to the UFC 159 pre-fight press conference, to speak with legislators on having the sport legalized. He told Jim Genia, Zuffa would “Hold their options open,” in regards to holding an event without legislation being passed.
“If the court comes down in our favor in that instance,” Fertitta said. We will have to take a step back, evaluate, and if we think it makes sense, we’ll do it.”
That would appear to contradict what White had said about the UFC not doing anything “sneaky.”
After the UFC 159 post-fight presser had concluded, White was asked about his and Fertitta’s statements from earlier in the week.
“If Lorenzo said that we’d keep our options open…Believe me when you talk about Lorenzo and if he says he’d keep his options open, I don’t what he meant, but he didn’t mean that,” White explained. “Lorenzo is the last one on earth…Lorenzo is a former athletic commissioner. Lorenzo is so by the book, so by the book.”
White went on in further detail backing up what he said about the UFC owner, explaining he was adamant about not getting sponsors from online gambling companies, and that Fertitta was also against him allowing the ring card girls Arianny Celeste, and Brittany Palmer to pose in Playboy.
Do you think MMA will become legal in NY this year?
When pressed further on his feelings on the issue, mainly if any part of him would like to use the loophole to put on an event without legislation being passed just to stick to the politicians, White did not hold back:
“You know what you do, and I don’t like to say this, because there’s a lot of fans in New York, and I appreciate the fans in New York. Talking about the politicians…The biggest way you say F**k you to the politicians in New York is you don’t have a show in New York. Are they hurting my business one bit? No. I just stayed in New York. I f*****g ate in great restaurants. Loved the hotel I stayed in. Then I drove over here. Took me about 30 minutes to get here, and I did a fight here that did a 2.7 million dollar gate, and all the things that happened over here, we gave the money to New Jersey. New Jersey got all the money. I still hung out in New York. I had a blast in New York. And guess what? The host hotel is here in New Jersey. They got all the rooming nights, all the people that came over, people coming over to the hotel and getting all the fighters, everybody flew into New Jersey and we did it in New Jersey. That’s the ‘f**k you’ to the politicians in New York.”
“I’m not doing s**t in New York man,” White concluded. “I’m not doing anything in New York, 'til they do the right thing and stop this dirty bulls**t they are doing, we’ll do everything in New Jersey.
The legislative calendar ends in June of this year, so we will know very soon if MMA becomes legal in New York. We know the UFC won’t be coming anywhere closer than New Jersey unless it’s a press conference or fan event, until it passes.
It’s up to you, New York State Assembly. It’s up to you.
Michael Stets is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report. All quotes were obtained first hand unless noted otherwise.