Less than two weeks ago, the mixed martial arts world looked to New York with unfettered excitement, daring to believe that maybe, just maybe, this would be the year that New York becomes the 49th state to legalize MMA.
The New York Senate passed S.2755 – its bill that legalizes MMA – by an overwhelming vote of 47-15. The Assembly then introduced its own version of the bill, A.6506. But despite more than 60 co-sponsors signed on to the bill sponsored by Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle, UFC president Dana White isn’t as optimistic as he once was that it will go into law.
Asked on Thursday about his hopes to have Anderson Silva fight Jon Jones at Madison Square Garden in New York for the UFC’s 20th anniversary event, White responded, “Yeah, (but) we didn't get into New York.
“I'd pretty much call it done, yeah,” when pressed further on whether he thought that all hope was lost for passage this year. “They didn't even put it in the budget. Anything can happen, (but) I'm not as optimistic as I was a few weeks ago.”
White continues to point the finger at the powerful Culinary Union as the reason why mixed martial arts legalization continues to stall in New York, a state desperate for the financial life preserver UFC events could help provide.
“The (New York) commission is 100-percent behind it. Everybody wants it there except the Culinary Union,” said White. “Every time we try to move forward and progress in New York, the Las Vegas Culinary Union starts hammering everybody with letters and they're working the politicians and everything else.
“I have a question for you. We're in Las Vegas,” he continued, getting a little heated. “We're putting on however many fights a year. How come they're not writing letters in Las Vegas?
“They're from Las Vegas. And if the UFC is this horrible thing that they write about, why aren't they sending letters to the MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, the Nevada State Athletic Commission? Why are they only writing letters to New York? Does that make any sense?
“Vegas can reap the rewards of all the economic impact that we have, but New York can't. Why is that?”
White had the answer to his own question, “Dirty rotten scumbags.”
UFC co-owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta operate Station Casinos in Nevada, a large nonunion casino operator. The Culinary Union Local 226 boasts nearly 60,000 members, and is considered a significant political force that is pressuring Station to unionize.
White believes that the Culinary Union has used its influence to keep MMA legalization from passing in New York in its attempts to frustrate the Fertittas on the casino front.
The battle between Station Casinos and the Culinary Union has nothing to do with mixed martial arts or its legalization, but it has continued to spill over into New York, year after year.
(Follow Ken Pishna on Twitter @KenPishna)