The UFC might be closer than ever to holding a show in New York again.
Attorneys for UFC parent company Zuffa and the state attorney general’s office have agreed that a loophole in a law banning professional mixed martial arts in New York allows for third-party sanctioning,according to Fightline.com’s Jim Genia.
In New York, amateur MMA is allowed, but pro MMA is illegal based upon a 1997 law banning the sport. That contradiction has been one of the major points in Zuffa’s lawsuit against the state. Attorneys for New York have conceded that because of the inconsistency of the law that MMA could be sanctioned under a third-party commission and not the state’s athletic commission. The judge in the matter has pushed both parties to settle.
Most MMA shows in the United States are under the watch of state athletic commissions. The UFC has had to be its own commission in other countries that don’t have regulating bodies. Under the current law, the only body that would legally be able to sanction MMA in New York and has actually sanctioned past events in the state is theWorld Kickboxing Association, Genia reports.
Zuffa attorney Tim Bellamy told Genia that the UFC would rather wait for the ban to be nixed entirely, but if third-party sanctioning is the only option right now, the organization would accept that. Bellamy also told Genia that the UFC would hold off on further action until the legislative cycle is over. If the bill repealing the MMA ban is passed, Zuffa would presumably pull its lawsuit.
To clarify: UFC would be able to hold a show in New York State, but it would not be sanctioned by the New York State Athletic Commission. Another organization would have to sanction it. Not ideal, of course. But progress, for sure.
"We'll take it," Bellamy told Fightline.com. "We'd rather have the state lift the ban and we go that route first, but we'll know in the next two months if that's going to happen."
This is hardly a done deal and anything can still happen within the legal process. But steps are being taken in the right direction to get professional MMA shows in New York before the end of 2013.
The state Senate has voted to legalize MMA the last two years only for Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to shoot it down before even letting it go to vote.
There are positive signs that this year things will change. But lobbyists supported by the Culinary Union, a longtime rival of UFC owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, have made serious inroads in Albany and are a big part of why MMA is still not legal here.
UFC president Dana White has said that the company wants to bring a massive show to Madison Square Garden in November for its 20th anniversary. When he made the comment in December, it seemed like just a pipe dream. As it turns out, it could very much be a reality.
The International Olympic Committee on Tuesday dropped a bombshell on the wrestling world, removing the sport from the Olympic program, knocking it out of the 2020 Olympic Games.
“This is a process of renewing and renovating the program for the Olympics,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “In the view of the executive board, this was the best program for the Olympic Games in 2020. It’s not a case of what’s wrong with wrestling, it is what’s right with the 25 core sports.”
Wrestling is now on a short-list of eight sports that can argue its case for inclusion in the Games, but it is unlikely that it would be readmitted so quickly after being removed from the list of core sports. The other sports vying for inclusion are baseball/softball, karate, roller sports, sport climbing, squash, wakeboarding and wushu.
When the bomb dropped on the wrestling world, the shockwaves immediately hit those in the mixed martial arts world smack in the face.
Wrestling is one of the core elements of MMA. Numerous successful wrestlers have made the move from the wrestling world to professional fighting: Daniel Cormier, Matt Lindland, Dan Henderson,Randy Couture, Mark Munoz, Cain Velasquez, and numerous others chief among them.
As soon as the word spread, calls immediately went out toUFC president Dana Whiteto be the savior, but considering what the wrestling world is up against, that’s not likely to happen.
“I've been battling this problem for years now; colleges are dropping it, high schools are dropping wrestling,” said White following Wednesday’sUFC on Fuel TV 7 press conferencein London.
“It's an awesome base for fighting, for mixed martial arts, for everything. It changes people's lives. It's this grueling hard work and dedication, all the things that go in with being a wrestler.
“The problem is nobody wants to watch it.”
Therein lies the crux of the issue for the Olympics.
While the Olympics were originally the ultimate platform for sports, like most other ventures in the modern age, it has become a multi-faceted money machine, largely driven by the bottom line more so than by the will to declare the top athletes in the world in their respective sports.
That’s a key element of the IOC’s decision not lost on White.
“Any sport, especially these days, it's about selling tickets and eyeballs and viewers and all these other things,” he stated, indicating that this could perhaps even be an opening for mixed martial arts to eventually find its way into the Games.
“There's been a lot of people saying (to me) you gotta do something. But what this could be is the evolution of mixed martial arts becoming an Olympic sport,” White hypothesized. “We bring spectators, eyeballs, whether it's on TV or whatever it is. This sport draws, wrestling doesn't.”
It’s not that White wants wrestling to go away, far from it. Wrestling is a fundamental part of Olympic history – which makes the IOC’s decision all the more difficult for many to come to grips with – but it is also a core discipline of mixed martial arts.
For White, however, the IOC’s decision wasn’t as surprising as it seems it was for many others.
He has been bucking the trend of the waning popularity of competitive wrestling for years, understanding that it’s survival is important for the development of fighters. He seems less inclined to fight the changing tide, however, than to accept that competitive wrestling’s decline may just be an evolution of sport.
“I can't be the guy to try and run out and save wrestling,” White declared.
“Do you know how many wrestling programs I've funded over the last five or six years? A lot. I don't want to see wrestling go away either.
“It's such a big part of the sport, but something is gonna happen here. It's gonna evolve into mixed martial arts or something, I don't know. I don't think wrestling is gonna go anywhere, but competitive wrestling definitely is.”
Where it’s not going is the 2020 Summer Olympic Games, which will be held in Istanbul, Madrid or Tokyo.