NEW YORK NY - JANUARY 13: Lorenzo Fertitta UFC Chairman and CEO speaks during a press conference to announce commitment to bring UFC to Madison Square Garden and New York State at Madison Square Garden on January 13 2011 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images)
New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver has declared legislation to regulate mixed martial arts in New York "will not come to the floor this year," according to the New York Daily News. The bill had once again passed through the New York State Senate but failed in the lower house yet again.
UFC vice-president Marc Ratner said he was "very, very disappointed."
"I feel 150% if we had a vote on the floor of the Assembly we would win," Ratner said. "Not to get a vote is un-American."
UFC president Dana White continues to blame the Culinary Workers Union who have been lobbying against MMA and the UFC from New York to California. The Culinary Workers are trying to organize Station Casinos in Las Vegas, Nevada which is owned by the same Fertitta Brothers that own the UFC.
"If they get Station Casinos, that's another $10.8 million a year to them," White told MMA Junkie.
The repeated failure to secure passage in New York has some MMA pundits questioning the UFC's lobbying strategy.
We'll hear from them after the jump...
What's happening in New York is a pretty simple matter. However, it requires fans to strip out the emotion and look at the political logic involved for Sheldon Silver. This is not the year to go against unions.
Instead of looking at trying to win over constituency groups who are not into passing MMA legislation, Zuffa has chosen the traditional top-down, pro-lobbyist, politician-only approach to getting business done in the State Capitol. It has been a costly mistake for the organization, both in wasting their time and especially their money. Instead of building up support the right way by funding grassroots organizations & creating a real, on-the-ground voter demand, Zuffa basically went for a traditional lobbying model that only works when you have voters who support you in the first place and are willing to be active in a big way in contacting their local politicians.
It also hasn't helped that Zuffa has vastly overrated its charm offensive strategy. Their quasi PR circuit tour in both New York & California based around pushing Ronda Rousey resulted in zero political success. It may have played well with local newspaper writers who were happy to have someone to do an easy profile article on but it meant nothing in actually moving the ball forward in regards to MMA legislation or in terms of getting an Assembly committee to vote against AB2100 amendments, despite the fact that said committee members admitted they hadn't even read the new amendments before voting yea or nay.
There is time for UFC to alter its political strategy and start making some grassroots in-roads that can match their traditional lobbying efforts. The question is not whether they have the resources to pull it off but rather if they have the will & desire to do so. Right now, Sheldon Silver has the will & desire to keep MMA legislation from passing in New York because his constituents don't have the will nor the desire to see such legislation get implemented in the first place.
I have to agree with Arnold here. The UFC's strategy is clearly not working. A multi-million dollar, multi-year lobbying effort should have measurable progress each year of the effort to show for the investment of time and money not a kind of Groundhog Day rinse-and-repeat cycle that seemingly never changes.