Battleground State: The Battle to Legalize Mixed Martial Arts in New York

 The UFC's ultimate dream.

The UFC's ultimate dream.

Here's my Master's Project for Columbia. It's fairly long, so I'm splitting it into 6 parts. Hope you enjoy!

Part I: Intro

It’s a frigid February evening in New York City, and yet scores of fans have braved the cold weather to gather at the midtown Manhattan Hooters bar in order to watch the latest Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) pay-per-view event entitled “UFC 109: Relentless.” Indeed, it’s so cold that most of the waitresses wear long-sleeved shirts instead of their usual tank-tops. More

Part 2: The Evolution

In many ways, the biggest knockout punch in MMA history didn’t come from Randy Couture, Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell, or any other of the sport’s biggest names, but from a United States senator. In 1996, Senator John McCain condemned the sport as “human cock-fighting” and sent letters to all 50 governors, urging them to ban MMA events in their states. McCain’s plea worked to a considerable degree as 36 states enacted bans, and the UFC nearly went out of business. More

Part 3: The Regulator

Marc Ratner spent 21 years with the Nevada State Athletic Commission, including 14 as its executive director. In the mid-1990s, when MMA was in its infancy, Ratner spoke out against it, saying that it would never be allowed in Las Vegas. In 2006, however, Ratner accepted a job with the UFC as its vice president of regulatory affairs. “I had the best regulatory job in the world,” said Ratner. “But what intrigued me about the UFC was that it was a brand new sport. I wanted to be on the ground floor, to be a pioneer and try to get it legalized. You can’t do that in basketball or boxing, since those sports have been around so long.” More

Part 4: The Politician

In Ratner’s eyes, the man holding the people of New York hostage is State Assemblyman Bob Reilly, a Democrat from Colonie. Reilly has been a steadfast opponent of legalizing MMA in New York and believes it is his responsibility to make sure MMA remains an illegal, outlaw sport. “First and foremost, it is a violent sport,” said Reilly. “It’s like pornography. Like the Supreme Court says, you know it when you see it. For example, I watched an event recently because I felt obligated to. One fellow was sitting on another’s chest and hit him in the head at least 14 times.” More

Part 5: The Pundit

Bert Sugar is one of the world’s foremost authorities on boxing. A member of the Boxing Hall of Fame, Sugar has written over 60 books, including some on boxing; has edited The Ring, Boxing Illustrated and Fight Game magazines, and was named “The Greatest Boxing Writer of the 20th Century” by the International Veterans Boxing Association. The quick-witted and sharp-tongued Sugar, known as much for his one-liners as for his trademark fedora and cigar, has some strong opinions about MMA.... More

Part 6: The Fighters

For Matt Serra, the former UFC Welterweight Champion, the worst part about training for a fight is having to give up pasta so that he can make the 170-pound welterweight limit. However, he loves to fight and can’t imagine himself doing anything else. “I’ve been studying jiu-jitsu since I was 19-years old, and I’m 35 now. I practice everything, but there’s something about jiu-jitsu that I love. It’s based on leverage and technique, and the fluidity of the moves from one transition to the other. I have a real love of the art of jiu jitsu, and I took to it like a fish to water,” said Serra, who won a gold medal at the 1999 Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Pan American championships. More

Victor Li

chicago, il