MMA: Sheldon Silver
June, 16, 2011
By Brett Okamoto
Michael Cohen/Getty ImagesNew York State behind: Lorenzo Fertitta wants to bring NY up to speed with MMA.The UFC will remain committed to the fight to legalize the sport of mixed martial arts in the state of New York to the bitter end.
According to UFC co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta, officials from the promotion are still on the ground in New York putting forth a final effort to get bill A04146A, which would regulate the sport within the state, on the Assembly floor for a vote.
Odds of success are dwindling, as the current legislative session is scheduled to end June 20.
Despite a recent comment by New York State Assemby Speaker Sheldon Silver that the bill lacks “widespread support in the Assembly for this legislation,” Ferititta remains confident it would pass if put to a vote. The bill has already passed through the New York State Assembly’s Tourism, Parks, Arts and Sports Department, Codes Committee and New York State Senate with overwhelming support.
“I’m sure [Silver] knows his constituents very well,” Fertitta told ESPN.com. “But when we count heads and walk up and down the legislature, it’s pretty clear we believe we have the votes. Usually, these bills get out of committees by a one-vote margin.
“I would like to see the democratic process play out. If we don’t have the votes we don’t have the votes. Put it on the floor, everybody says ‘Yay’ or ‘Nay’ and let’s move on.”
Should the measure not get to the Assembly floor this legislative schedule, the process would start again from scratch next year. Silver, regarded as one of the most influential men in New York politics, will still hold office, as he was recently re-elected in November.
The UFC has fought for the bill in years past, only to arrive at the same result. Fertitta said the organization will continue to do so, but admitted a new, success-guaranteed strategy doesn’t exist.
“There’s only so much we can do,” Fertitta said. “We have an impeccable track record. We educate people in the sport and on the healthy and safety issues. What is it exactly they are trying to protect the citizens from? You can buy it on TV; why can’t you buy a ticket to watch it live?
“All of the arguments are in our favor other than the fact there is politics being played.”
In comments similar to those made by UFC president Dana White, Fertitta summarized his belief that reasons completely unrelated to the sport are at the source of the problem.
The promotion firmly suspects the Culinary Union and its parent company Unite Here, which holds lobbying powers in New York, are the primary reason the sport’s met so much resistance. Fertitta, who also owns Station Casinos in Nevada, has been at odds with the Culinary Union for years.
“Unfortunately, we’ve got a viable opponent on the other side in the Culinary Union,” Fertitta said. “They have made it their mission to do whatever they can to be the stalwart and a pain in me and [brother and UFC co-owner] Frank’s side.
“At the end of the day, it is what it is. We can live without New York although it’s better to have it. But if they’re going to play those games, we’ve got to play those games.”