Friday, February 4, 2011

Grassroots grow around old weeds on the anniversary of MMA's banning in New York

On February 7th, 1997 crew and fighters from UFC 12 stood on a tarmac in Buffalo, New York awaiting flights to Dothan, Alabama. The hasty evacuation left people in a scramble. Hotel rooms were abandoned and all non-essential gear was left in New York in order to expedite the quick trek to Alabama. MMA had been banned. Governor George Pataki had signed into law the legislation outlawing MMA in New York State. Nearly 14 years to the day that Vitor Belfort was set to make his UFC debut in New York, we are once again planning to watch him make another go at the UFC Title...and MMA is still illegal in New York.

On February 3rd, 2011, just shy of the anniversary of the banning of MMA in NY, the Coalition to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York planted grassroots seeds intended to kill the 14 year old weed that strangles the sport in our own back yard. 13 pivotal members of the New York MMA community gathered at NY Combat Sambo for a round table meeting designed to begin planning our final assault (hopefully) on the antiquated prohibitionistic laws that ban MMA in New York State. The fight to legalize MMA in NY is not a new one. Various groups have been independently fighting the battle for over a decade in our state. However, this round table was historic. For the first time, formerly independent parties gathered together at one table to once and for all plan an attack that will bring MMA back to New York.

Notably absent were representatives of Global Strategy Group (UFC's marketing firm), Strikeforce, and M1 who had all planned on attending but, cancelled last minute for various reasons. Nevertheless, it was the roots of the NY MMA community who did force.

Round Table attendees included:

1) Assemblyman Dean Murray (R,C-East Patchogue): Ranking Minority member of the New York State Assembly Committee on Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Development.
2) Kevin Malloy: Assemblyman Murray's Chief of Staff.
3) Kevin Morello: Office of Senator Lee Zeldin (R, C, I - Long Island). Co sponsor of the Senate MMA bill.
4) Justin Klein: Member of the NY Bar Sports Law Committee and writer for MMA Payout.
5) Peter Lampasona: MMA journalist, US Combat Sport and host of Cage Radio
6) Jim Genia: MMA journalist, Editor at Full Contact Fighter
7) Eddie Goldman: MMA journalist. No Holds Barred
8) Bruce Kivo. MMA journalist. MMA Confidential
9) Steve Katz: Queens gym owner/amateur MMA promoter.
10) Steve Kardian: Westchester gym owner, security expert, and national media consultant.
11) Stephen Koepfer: Manhattan gym owner, President of the American Sambo Association.
12) Paula Romero: MMA insider
13) Kahleem Poole: MMA Documentarian

The round table was a huge success and all parties left feeling confident, motivated, and well prepared to continue fighting this battle. Strategies were developed for our February 8th rally in lower Manhattan; how fans, students, and gyms can get more involved; how to better approach Albany; how to begin to correct the record in the media; and much more. It was made very clear that despite Governor Pataki's lack of support in his recent budget proposal, that this is a fight we can win.

To get you all up to speed, Eddie Goldman has posted the entire audio recording of the round table on No Holds Barred. I encourage EVERYONE to listen in and get to work! You can begin by showing up at our rally on February 8th.

Here is what some of the meeting attendees had to say:

New York Mixed Martial Arts Legalization Roundtable & Sports Law Committee Meeting

Assemblymen Murray and Englebright Say MMA Can Pass in New York with Correct Support

NYC MMA Legalization Roundtable Postscript

In the end, this round table session jump started the grass roots movement we desperately need in the state. Now, it is up to us to keep it going! Start by showing your support on February 8th at our rally!

Stephen Koepfer
Founder, Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY

 Thanks to Jim Genia for the pics!

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