Sunday, March 13, 2011

Correcting the Record: Matthew Saccaro and the Bleacher Report

On February 26th, 2011, Matthew Saccaro published an article on the Bleacher Report called: Carmelo Anthony, UFC and New York: How Do They Fit Together?

In his article Saccaro states (correctly in my opinion) that mixed martial arts is not as popular as fans like to believe and this is demonstrated by the fact that MMA's legal woes in New York are being overshadowed in the mainstream media by such sports stories like Carmello Anthony's move to New York or the impending NFL lockout.

Mr. Saccaro then goes on to state:

Despite the burgeoning MMA scene within New York—meaning the prevalence of MMA gyms and the emergence of fighters such as Gian Villante and Chris Weidman, who will take on Alessio Sakara at UFC on Versus 3—the UFC has not been able to pervade the minds of a majority of New York's sports-watching population.

The recent “Legalize MMA” rally that took place back in February clearly failed to strike a chord with the New York State government [bold added], since nothing is being done. Perhaps the UFC is appealing too much to the government’s head and not its wallet
It is this comment about the UFC and the Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY rally where Saccaro starts to drift. In this quote as well as the majority of the article, his implication that the UFC is synonymous with MMA in NY is off base.  MMA is a professional sport. The UFC is a brand, a huge brand, but still just a brand. To cover a sport as if a single brand (yes, the largest one) comprises the entirety of the sport is inaccurate to say the least.

Contrary to what Saccaro states, the point of our rally was to reach everyday New Yorkers, not Albany. After all, it is everyday New Yorkers (voters) who will challenge our legislators in Albany.

Of course the rally's location was chosen for strategic reasons having to do with affairs in Albany, but the main goal of the rally was (as has been clarified as such many times) to see who was paying attention to our coalition's efforts, to begin correcting the record for the mainstream media and to reach everyday New Yorkers face to face. This goal was accomplished. After all, Saccaro is mentioning us, right?

Over a month later, we are still feeling the effects of the rally. We are still talking with legislators, fielding phone calls, requests for interviews, and e-mails of support. Members of the coalition have been interviewed for impending articles in Bloomberg News, The Wall Street Journal and New York Times. The rally was covered in the New York Daily News, New York Metro, NBC's All Night with Joey Reynolds (as a lead up to the rally), and a host of martial arts/MMA media sources including the most mainstream sports media source possible: ESPN. I would say that for a first public event, in the dead of winter, we made significant impact.

Having said that, the rally gave us an opportunity to get boots on the ground and meet/talk with the "man on the street", which did confirm what both Saccaro and I believe: That MMA is not nearly as known as we fans would like to think. Passers by who attended all or portions of the rally's speeches ranged from those in the know to those who had no idea was MMA was or though we were still bare knuckle brawlers...and everything in between (we distributed 600 fact sheets). In fact, the police officer who issued me our permit for the rally had no idea MMA was illegal in New York State. The rally was a clear indication of how far we do have to go in terms of mainstream education.

So, after noting that our rally had no affect in Albany (he never mentions who organized the rally), Saccaro then goes on to state:
"Perhaps the UFC is appealing too much to the government’s head and not its wallet."
Saccaro implies that the UFC was behind the rally and then suggests that the UFC is not paying enough attention to Albany's wallet. He can't be serious. Has he been paying attention?

Let's be clear about this: The UFC had nothing to do with the Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY Rally. We would have loved to have had support from Zuffa, but unfortunately none was forthcoming despite invitations to the contrary. We were very pleased that Strikeforce and M1-Global offered their written support and presence at the rally (Frank Shamrock and Alistair Overeem). In fact, Strikeforce/M1-Global rescheduled their heavyweight grand prix public fan experience so as not to conflict with the rally. But, the rally itself recieved no financial or organizational support from ANY mixed martial arts promotional company.

After some hopeful (and accurate) thoughts about the expansion of the UFC and how it could possibly surpass current "ball sports" in the mainstream media, Saccaro concludes his article with:
Still, the UFC and the sport of MMA have a big mountain to climb. The legalization of MMA in New York is the next biggest step on that mountain.
Yes, legalization is a huge step to take in the world of MMA. And, the UFC certainly will play a big role in the process. They have the largest pulpit and the financial means that others do not. But, everyone has a role to play in this fight: The UFC, Strikeforce (now owned by Zuffa), M1, Bellator, and most of all...New Yorkers.

Without cooperation between ALL these groups we may not make it up the mountain. Our coalition represents New Yorkers who want MMA in New York. Without New Yorkers who are willing to get out and support the sport we love, all the lobbying, media coverage, and pontificating won't help.

It is us, the New York fans who have to get the job done. It is the New York fans who need to make appointments to see their local legislators. It is the New York fans who need to keep writing letters. It is the New York fans who need to keep making phone calls. It is the New York fans who have to keep correcting the record when we see misrepresentations in the media.

We are part of the team, the most important part of the team.

Stephen Koepfer
Founder, Coalition to Legalize MMA in NY

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