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Maggie Hendricks

Illinois ex-gov deluded in thinking he helped out the UFC

Maggie Hendricks

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When UFC 90 came to my hometown of Chicago, I had lunch with my partner-in-blogging, Steve Cofield. He had read the Chicago Sun-Times that day, and asked me, "What did your governor do to deserve a 13 percent approval rating?" I answered that Rod Blagojevich, the governor at the time, was corrupt, rude, pandering and reactionary. Just two months later, the governor with the immovable hair was indicted and impeached, expelled from office and from the lives of Illinoisans.

Or so we hoped.

Now, in his book, "The Governor," Blagojevich contends that he pushed through legislation legalizing MMA in the Land of Lincoln. He had a distaste for it, but signed the bill to help out Rahm Emanuel, current Chief-of-Staff for President Obama. Emanuel's brother Ari is an agent -- the basis for the Ari Gold character on "Entourage" -- and Zuffa, the holding company of the UFC and WEC, is one of Ari's clients.

"After chiding him for not acknowledging the help I gave his brother Ari in the past to help one of his clients bring the sport of Ultimate Fighting to Illinois -- an idea, incidentally, that I didn't like but nevertheless I did to help him -- I told him I would talk to my legal counsel and see if there was a way where this perhaps might work," Blagojevich writes.

Sure, Emanuel should be thankful to Blagojevich for helping out his brother, right?

Except, it didn't happen that way.

MMA legislation faced little opposition in Illinois. Zuffa did hire well-connected lobbyists and make political contributions, but nowhere near the full-court press that they've been forced to put on in New York. They didn't need to in Illinois. The bill sailed through both the House and Senate, and any veto that the Governor would have tried would have been easily overridden. That opened the door for the UFC, WEC and Strikeforce to come to Chicago and its suburbs.

So, thanks for your "help," Rod. Keep deluding yourself into thinking that MMA couldn't have come here without you. We all know the truth.

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