Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (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.”

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Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (Part 3)

The Lobbyist

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.”

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Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (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. However, in a 2007 interview with National Public Radio, McCain changed his tune, offering reserved praise for MMA. “They have cleaned up the sport to the point, at least in my view, where it is not human cockfighting any more. I think they’ve made significant progress. They haven’t made me a fan, but they have made progress,” said McCain.

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Battleground State: The Fight to Legalize MMA in New York (Part 1)

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.

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