MMA bill languishes in committee

Lorenzo Fertitta, UFC Chairman and CEO, speaks during

Lorenzo Fertitta, UFC Chairman and CEO, speaks during a press conference to announce their commitment to bring UFC to Madison Square Garden and New York State once MMA is legalized. (Jan. 13, 2011) (Credit: Getty)

Mark La Monica

Mark La Monica Mark La Monica

Mark La Monica is the deputy sports editor for cross

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It's a tagline in commercials, a slogan on a magnet, a saying printed on T-shirts. It's a marketing tool serving as the backbone of its tourism industry, and in a way, the entire Nevada city.

What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.

"Except when it comes to casinos and unions having disagreements," said Marc Ratner, the UFC's vice president of regulatory affairs.

The reference there is the opposition facing UFC in its fight to legalize mixed martial arts in New York. It is their contention that the Culinary Workers Union, and its lobbying group Unite Here, are blocking the legislation. The Fertitta brothers (Frank and Lorenzo), co-owners of UFC parent company Zuffa LLC, also own Station Casinos, which employ roughly 14,000 non-union workers in Las Vegas. Last February, about 20 union members were arrested during a protest outside one of the Station casino properties.

The bill to bring MMA events both big and small to the state sits in the Assembly's ways and means committee. It's been there since June 13. The committee's agenda and six addendums were posted on the Assembly's website Friday, and none of them included Bill No. A-04146. The legislative session ends Monday. You do the math.

Yes, Gov. Andrew Cuomo does have the power to extend the session a few days. But with bigger political issues facing the state in the waning days of session -- same-sex marriage, rent control laws, property tax caps -- it seems unlikely that an eight-sided cage will be constructed at Madison Square Garden anytime soon.

Assemb. Dean Murray (R-East Patchogue), an active proponent of legalizing and regulating MMA, has worked to boost support for the sport. He said the governor indicated to him that he would sign the bill if it gets to his desk.

Getting it to his desk is the problem. It appears that ways and means chairman Denny Farrell (D-Manhattan) doesn't intend to bring the bill to a vote in the committee.

"I am going to continue until they dismiss us to try to convince them to put this on the floor to a vote," Murray said Thursday. "But I'm not optimistic about it after my conversation with the chairman."

A spokesman from Farrell's office said "the measure is under review."

There's a strong likelihood that the bill would get the minimum 18 votes necessary to pass it to the rules committee and then a full Assembly vote. Nine members of ways and means were among the 60 signatures acquired by Murray on a June 7 letter sent to Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver urging a vote by the full Assembly.

No indication has been given in the past few days that the vote will occur. The belief, though, is that the necessary 76 votes from the full Assembly is attainable.

The bill passed the state Senate, 42-18, in May, far better than last year's 32-26 vote. It sailed through the Assembly's tourism committee, 16-3, and through codes, 17-3.

Ways and means is MMA's toughest opponent so far. The legislation stalled here last year, as well.

"All we want is a vote on the floor," Ratner said. "To not get a vote would be patently unfair. I believe we have the votes in ways and means, and somehow if it's not on the agenda, then it's a political thing."

The UFC doesn't need New York to be a successful, profitable company. It already is. Smaller, regional promotions would benefit more. But this is New York, the third most populous state in the nation, and this is New York City, the No. 1 media market in the world. Having New York on its list opens more doors. Bigger doors. Maybe even a cage door.

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