Mark La Monica is the deputy sports editor for cross media at Newsday and writes about mixed martial
NFL owners, a wealthy and powerful group, voted last week to put its biggest showcase -- the one that airs in 200 countries and commands $3 million fees per 30-second commercial -- in a city whose average temperature over the past five Februarys is only slightly higher than the average age of NFL players.
Yet, still, mixed martial arts is illegal in New York, one half of the host states for Super Bowl XLVIII in 2014. New Jersey continues to earn revenue from New Yorkers by legalizing MMA.
Does this make any sense still? How is this possible?
First, there's the law banning the sport signed by then Gov. George Pataki in 1997. Rewriting legislation isn't a short process.
Second, there's the vocal opposition from some legislators such as Assemblyman Bob Reilly (D-Latham).
Third, there's the politicking with the State budget for next year. Gov. David A. Paterson's budget proposal included a provision to legalize MMA, while the state assembly's did not. Negotiations continue on this and much larger points.
But if NFL owners can agree after four rounds of voting to bring the Super Bowl to an outdoor stadium in a cold-weather city, surely politicians can agree on MMA, a sport that is no more violent than professional football.
Just to be clear here, the idea of Super Bowl in a cold-weather city such as New York is worth supporting. That's not the point. The point is that for whatever reason, New York State legislators -- and to be fair, quite a large number of non-believers who only hear the John McCain quote from 1995 (1995!) -- consider mixed martial artists to be the most brutal fighters since Genghis Khan.
UFC, or any mixed martial arts promotion, can't hold a candle to the economic impact of the Super Bowl. Not an even a match.
But the Super Bowl is still 44 months away. Given the economic peril New York State reports itself to be in, who knows how many parks will close in the next three years, how many students will receive a sub-par educational experience, how many patients in hospitals will not receive adequate medical care. MMA can't save the world, but the new revenue stream it would create for the state can't hurt Albany's coffers.
Not to mention that a good portion of the economic impact from the Super Bowl will be felt in our neighboring state of New Jersey. By the by, New Jersey already sanctions MMA, and hosted UFC 111 in March. An estimated 50 percent of that revenue came from New York taxpayers, a UFC official said at the time..
A 2008 study done by HR & A, commissioned by the UFC, showed that hosting an event in New York City would generate $11 million in economic impact. Again, that's paltry compared to the nine-figure dollar impact of one Super Bowl does. But legalizing and then sanctioning mixed martial arts in New York State would potentially bring the UFC to Madison Square Garden once a year, or once every 18 months.
"Madison Square Garden, that's where we're going, absolutely," UFC president Dana White said. "Get New York done, go into a historical place like Madison Square Garden, have a big fight, that's really what we've wanted to do. We want to bring big fights back to Madison Square Garden all the time."
. Their sister promotion, World Extreme Cagefighting, would almost certainly follow suit. . As would Strikeforce.
"I don't know really when New York is going to open, but when it does, we'll certainly come to New York," Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker said. "I can see Fedor [Emelianenko] fighting in the Garden in the main event. That would be an amazing night."
Regional promotions such as Ring of Combat, run by Lou Neglia of Bellmore, could host shows in smaller New York venues instead of going to Atlantic City all the time.
New York City, Long Island, Albany, Buffalo, Syracuse are just a few viable host cities for events ranging from big pay-per-view cards to UFC Fight Nights, WEC on Versus or Strikeforce Challengers Series events. Surely some of the money generated from these events would help the state earn some money.
Or maybe we'll just be forced to get new license plates again next year . . . and then be able to drive our cars with new plates to parks that are still closed.
Time to step up, legislators. Pick a budget plan, put the legalization of mixed martial arts on one of those budget lines, vote "Yea" on the budget, and let's get it going.