Saturday, March 19, 2011

UPDATED: Jones' title shot brings NY MMA into the spotlight

Tonight, just across the river from New York City, UFC 128 will take place in New Jersey. The pre-fight press conference was held this past Wednesday in New York (at Radio City Music Hall) with great reception from New York fans, including NYC Councilman Joel Rivera. The main event boasts challenger and native New Yorker Jon Jones against current Light Heavyweight UFC Champion, Mauricio 'Shogun' Rua. 

Simply put, it is sad that Jones, a New Yorker, stepping into the cage for the fight of his career, can't do it in his home state. Jones himself points out the irony in an op-ed he penned for the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. Rashad Evans, another native New Yorker, MMA fighter and former UFC Champion recently commented in an op-ed for the Buffalo News.

This moment (or lost moment) in New York MMA history is not being overlooked by the mainstream media.

The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NY1 News, the NY Post, and CBS News have covered the story. Even NY1 News hosted UFC President Dana White and CEO Lorenzo Fertitta on Inside City Hall, where they once again made the clear case in favor of our professional sport of mixed martial arts.

However, still leading the pack in opposition to mixed martial arts in New York State is Assemblyman Bob Reilly (D, Albany & Saratoga). Subsequent to White and Fertitta, Reilly also appeared on NY1's Inside City Hall to once again state his uninformed moralistic case against mixed martial arts.  Ray Krueger details Reilly's case as well as the history of New York's battle for legal and regulated MMA in today's New York Times.

Amid what is arguably the worst economic climate New York State legislators have ever had to face, it is almost inconceivable that Assemblyman Reilly continues to ignorantly defend the ban of the professional sport of mixed martial arts. In fact, in a recent Albany television news story, Reilly has even suggested banning professional boxing!

As we New Yorker’s face a budget gap of ten billion dollars that threatens public education, healthcare, public transportation, public television and radio, services for senior citizens, and countless other critical services and jobs, Reilly continues to focus his valuable energies towards blasting our sport and misrepresenting the facts.  He continues standing on his soap box despite a near ubiquitous acceptance of the sport across the United States, a demonstrated health and safety record that exceeds most other popular contact sports, and significant financial benefits that could be brought to New York during its greatest time of need - without creating a single new tax.

While some suggest it is not simply a desire to legislate morals that keeps Reilly focused on this crusade, one has to wonder where Assemblyman Reilly’s priorities really lie as he continues to legislate in accordance with his own moral compass and willingly disregard the facts and desires of New Yorkers in the process.

The bottom line is not about dollars, as Assemblyman Reilly states. I could not agree more. In the end, mixed martial arts is a professional sport and all professional sports should be regulated for the safety of the athletes.

Note: To see my assessment of the Sienna Poll Assemblyman Reilly mentions during his NY1 Interview, read: Correcting the Record, The Sienna Research Institute Poll

UPDATE: Jones did win the title and will likely firht Rashad Evans as his first defense. Evans is another native New Yorker. We will soon see 2 New Yorkers competing for the UFC Lt. Heavyweight Title and they can't do it in their home state!

Just to give some perspective on where MMA fighters come from, here is Jon Jones competing in a grappling tournament in January, 2008 (Ithica, NY)...before his MMA debut:

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