Today MMA4NY, one of Zuffa, LLC's (that's the UFC for those not in the know) PR entities here in New York held a "rally" in support of lifting the ban on professional MMA in front of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver's office. Sadly, I did not attend. Why? Because the rally was only announced Wednesday and I could not clear my calendar for today. MMA4NY had approached me via e-mail about 2 weeks ago regarding a possible rally and when I frankly told them why I believed it was ill advised, I never heard back from them. Nevertheless, a rally for Friday morning at 11am was announced on Wednesday afternoon.
What happened next was a complete joke and incredibly offensive to all of us in the MMA community actually in the trenches here in New York State. If MMA4NY wants to act like they are in the trenches with us and show they actually care about our fate, this is not the way to do it. Only two days notice for a rally? Holding a rally on a Friday, when most people take off from work, minimizing the amount of eyes on the rally in the first place? No public support from UFC for the event whatsoever? Not a single New York based UFC fighter present at the rally? Holding a rally after Sheldon Silver already publicly put this year's bill to death? Sending in interns who don't know the facts, or even the name of the Assembly Speaker they are rallying? Waiting until the last 2 weeks of the legislative calendar instead of rallying at the beginning of the calendar when New York MMA is a hot issue? MMA4NY's hastily announced "rally" was clearly a last ditch effort doomed to fail from the start. Well, it was a failure if you are thinking about actually having a rally that helps our cause here in any way. Maybe not such a failure if one's goal is to keep the Zuffa paychecks flowing. You gotta show you are doing something to earn that cash, right?
MMA Journalist Jim Genia was on the scene and filed this report on how the MMA4NY rally went down today.
So, how did MMA4NY show that they care for us here in the trenches in New York? They sent several ill-prepared interns on a suicide mission to stand in the rain in front of Sheldon Silver's Manhattan office. Oh yeah, the only other people to show up were Journalists Jim Genia and Phoenix Carnevale. While the interns may have had the best of intentions (I do thank them for their support!), they were simply fodder in the continuing war for New York MMA. The interns, or should I say pawns, were sacrificed to the front lines of a war which has become a proxy battlefront for the Fertitta Brothers' (majority owners of the UFC) decades long war with the Las Vegas Culinary Union over their non-union Station Casino chain. But, are the power brokers actually trying their best to end this war and get us professional MMA in New York?
Some, including myself believe that this is a war not intended to be won at all. Or at the very least, it will be stretched out as long as possible for the selfish benefit of several parties. In fact, it has become my opinion that the "fight" for New York MMA is suffering from permanent project syndrome where the power players involved have little motivation to actually lift the ban. But, why keep the ban in place?
Could it be for the maintenance of a perpetual pulpit from which both the Culinary Union and the UFC can bring national attention to their ridiculous feud? Where the New York MMA community is simply considered collateral damage? Were it not for New York MMA, nobody would know or care about their Vegas hotel union battle. The New York MMA issue is a convenient way to keep taking perpetual pot shots at each other. If professional MMA comes to New York, both sides lose a fantastic megaphone.
Related Reading - 2012 Editorial (things have not changed much): New York MMA: Think Locally, Act Globally
Could it be that too many people are making too much money because MMA is banned in NY? Aaron Elstein of Crane's New York seems to think so. Legislators are getting their coffers filled without ever having to cast a vote (in the Assembly) or even make minor public statements on our behalf. Lobbyists are getting paid massive retainers to fight for us in Albany; with zero record of success year after year. Public Relations and marketing firms are getting paid tremendous amounts to spread the word and fight for us here in NY. Is today's rally worth the retainer fees being paid to MMA4NY by the UFC?
Some of our own community here in New York may not even want MMA legislation to pass in Albany. There are third party sanctioning bodies operating here in New York who will lose their legislative hall pass if our state lifts the ban and hands control to the NYS Athletic Commission. Since New York's 2011 admission that amateur MMA is legal and outside the jurisdiction of the NYS Athletic Commission if run by a third party sanctioning body, the amateur MMA scene here has blossomed (not without it's own set of problems). Furthermore, only a select few of these sanctioning bodies, according to NYS's liquor laws, are permitted to serve alcohol at their amateur events. That's right. Some folks sanctioning amateur MMA events here in New York have a pretty sweet deal because according to the ban's language; they can operate unsupervised. So, if that law is overturned, so is their ability to operate here in New York. Their hall pass gets handed back to the principal.
Bottom line is this. Those of us in the trenches and living with this sad prohibition, day in and day out, don't have the funds to pay to have a lobbyist in Albany where our voice can be heard. We try our best, but it is not enough to matter in the long run. There are many people claiming to be helping the New York MMA community. In truth, many are not here to help us at all, but act with their own self interest. So, to those who like to pretend like they are in the trenches with us, I say if this is how you are going "fight" for us, don't fight for us at all.
Here are some vids of actual rallies by the local New York MMA Community: